Do not post anything on social media that you would not want published in a newspaper.
This is the advice of two Tauranga employment law specialists dealing with an increasing number of disputes relating to Facebook.
Barrister Rita Nabney said she had two recent cases involving employees posting comments on Facebook that reflected poorly on their employer.
"I think it's about people considering that their Facebook page is private when in actual fact it's in the public domain," she told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.
"One of the grounds for serious misconduct is bringing an employer into disrepute. If you're saying, doing or posting anything that can be linked to your employer then that can be serious misconduct."
Employees also needed to consider the longevity of the internet and social media, she said.
Something posted as a teenager, or while studying at university, may not be something the same person wanted in the public domain 10 years later when they were married with children or working as a doctor.
"It's the longevity of the information that is particularly concerning for people."
Her advice to employees was simple: "Put things on social media that you are happy to have put in the paper because it's not private and it's not confidential."
Tauranga employment law advocate Warwick Reid said the recent Tauranga case in which Affco butcher Roberta Ratu was threatened with dismissal after making a post on Facebook highlighted a need for employers to have clear guidelines on social media and educate their staff on what these were.
Affco said Mrs Ratu's post on Facebook - asking Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell for his support with employment agreement negotiations - broke the company's code of conduct and house rules.
Mrs Rata has no plans to adjust her online behaviour. "I'm not going to change how I ask my MP for help," she said this week.
In 2014, Mr Reid acted on behalf of former Kidicorp employee Rachel Blylevens who managed Topkids on Waihi Rd.
Ms Blylevens was fired after commenting on a derogatory Facebook post about her employer.
She also "liked" a post referring to Kidicorp as "striking again" through "allegations of bullying".
The Employment Relations Authority ruled that Kidicorp's actions were fair and reasonable and Ms Blyleven's unjustified dismissal claim did not succeed.
Mr Reid had also dealt with Tauranga cases involving school teachers' communications with students via Facebook and expected the number of disputes over social media to grow.
"It's evolving and it's changing. It's raised its head in a significant number of cases that I've had in recent months. It's fast developing and I think it's going to continue to develop."
Mr Reid said a lot of employees were coming "unstuck" with a failure to realise that what they posted online was often public.
"They have got to treat any Facebook commenting in the same way as any other communication. They have got to be aware that it may come back to bite them. It may be treated the same as writing a letter publicly to the local newspaper."
Mr Reid was surprised by the Human Rights Tribunal's ruling in the "cake case" which saw Hawke's Bay woman Karen Hammond awarded $168,000 in damages after her former employer New Zealand Credit Union Baywide distributed a photo she had posted on her Facebook page.
Hammond had posted the image of a cake iced with an abusive message about NZCU Baywide to her own page - visible only to her 150 friends - but Mr Reid said it still had the potential to be shared more widely.
"That cake case had a lot of people like me looking at the Privacy Act and seeing how wide-reaching it was," he said.
Privacy Commission spokesman Charles Mabbett said once information was posted on Facebook, Instagram or other social media, it was publicly available and the commission could not compel someone to remove it.
"We also cannot control how that information will be copied or distributed once it has been posted. Anyone using social media should make sure they are aware of the privacy settings and how to apply them to their social media profile. Facebook, for instance, has information on how to deal with anyone who may be impersonating others on its service."
The Harmful Digital Communications Bill to tackle cyberbullying or online harassment had its second reading in Parliament on March 24.
The bill - which covers emails, texts, phone messages, blogs, forums and social media - aims to ensure harmful communications are covered by relevant criminal and civil law, regardless of whether they are in a digital medium or not.