The Offensive Cake Case

On 2 March 2015 the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded Karen Hammond over $168,000.00 in damages from her former employer, New Zealand Credit Union Baywide (NZCU), following a Facebook breach of privacy and “loss of dignity”.

Karen left NZCU in March 2012. Five days later she made a cake for her friend, whom she believed had been constructively dismissed from NZCU. The cake was decorated with “Credit Union Baywide f*** you” and “c***s”. The cake was dessert at a private dinner party for 10 people. An image of the cake was posted on Karen’s private Facebook page.

NZCU accessed a copy of the image of the cake and distributed this to recruitment agencies and Karen’s new employer. NZCU then offered Karen’s new employer financial support to take professional advice regarding terminating Karen’s employment. NZCU also halted business with Karen’s new employer, resulting in Karen resigning from her new position, to save her new employer’s business suffering.

The Tribunal not only awarded Karen damages, they also made orders for NZCU to apologise to Karen, retract statements made to recruitment companies, retract statements made to NZCU staff about Karen, and ordered NZCU, at its own expense, to train their management staff in relation to their obligations under the Privacy Act 1993.

We suggest employers have in place a social media policy for their organisation, and an understanding of their obligations under the Privacy Act 1993. If you would like an electronic version of this case, please email admin@accordservices.co.nz.

This article is intended as a point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances and no liability will be accepted for any losses incurred by those relying solely on this article.

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