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Worker fired for Bebo post saying shifts 'gay'

A Warehouse worker has been fired after posting comments about her workplace on the social networking website Bebo.

Deena Pawson posted comments saying "work sux" and working until midnight was "gay like the management".

But when Ms Pawson's boss read the comments she was fired for serious misconduct, claiming the online comments had brought The Warehouse into disrepute.

News of her sacking comes after another case of electronic communication going wrong, which led to a viral email sweeping the country with details of a row between a catering company manager and a customer.

Margaret McHugh of the Gourmet Food Store in Auckland told an accounts and event manager at Ray White in Auckland, "I expect you still believe in Santa Clause".

Following the latest case, Ms Pawson of Whangarei said she was just having a bad day at work and does not think the comments justify her sacking.

Employment lawyer Ashley Sharp said employees are free to make comments about their workplaces as long as they do not seriously harm their employer's reputation.

He said employees' freedom of expression in the Bill of Rights has been recognised in past rulings. However, like defamation and libel law, it is limited.

Mr Sharp said he would be surprised if there was not some history to Ms Pawson's case that has not been revealed.

He said Ms Pawson's comment - that working until midnight was "gay like the management" - has to be seen in a 2007 context.

"What does that mean? Gay is a word that is used in different contexts. It certainly has no sexual connotations. I've heard it used in different ways, even to the point where it is used instead of crappy.

"What's wrong with saying that? I think it's fair to say shift work is crappy. Who likes working shift work when other people are at home and you could be with your family," Mr Sharp said.

He said it's a different matter if an employee uses a website to carry out a vendetta against an employer.

The Warehouse did not respond to a request for comment.

A catalogue of infamous electronic errors:

December, 2007: A Warehouse worker was fired after posting comments about her workplace on the social networking website Bebo. Deena Pawson posted said "work sux" and working until midnight was "gay like the management".

But when Ms Pawson's boss read the comments she was fired for serious misconduct, claiming the online comments had brought The Warehouse into disrepute.

December, 2007: A catering company manager told a customer, "You were probably bottle feed till late teens", in an angry email exchange that has now gone around the country.

Margaret McHugh of the Gourmet Food Store in Auckland also told Hayley Johnstone, an accounts and event manager at Ray White in Auckland, "I expect you still believe in Santa Clause". The angry exchange came after a query about the cost of chocolate strawberries.

August, 2007: University lecturer Dr Paul Buchanan was fired after he sent an email to a student refusing an extension. The first email Dr Buchanan sent was supportive but in a follow-up he wrote: "I say this reluctantly but not so subtly: you are not suitable for a graduate degree. It does not matter if your father died or if you have a medical certificate."

The email continues: "The extension is meaningless because you have not attended the last few classes and are the worse performer in the class."

Dr Buchanan later apologised to the student before he was fired. He is set to take his case to the employment court next year.

November, 2006: The Great Marquee company apologised to a bride-to-be and her fiance after an employee sent them an abusive email describing their wedding plans as "cheap, nasty and tacky" and said the couple was not suitable for their marquees, which were intended for "upper class clients". The email advised them to go to Payless Plastics instead. The employee who sent the email was fired.

October 2006: law clerk Craig Dale was received world wide media attention after he sent an email to a colleague proposing a relationship he referred to as "friends with benefits".

"Really I thought you were hot and was sure you'd be a rocket in the sack, which I think you would be."

Dale's email was sent around the world with a "loser alert" from Azadeh Bashari saying: "If you ever have the misfortune of meeting this little charmer, run, run, run!!! Don't let him fool you with his "ultimate nice guy charm" or his offers to take you on "coffee and David Hasslehoff long walks along the beach"."

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