The British Columbia Labor Relations Board has upheld the dismissal of a pair of car dealership employees after they posted negative comments about their supervisors and employer on their Facebook pages, according to Canadian OH&S News.
This is the first case of dismissal over online comments in Canada, according to Scott Jones, principal of the West Coast Auto Group in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, where the workers were employed. “People need to be very, very careful. You’re not just exchanging a conversation with one friend,” he points out, adding that if someone has 500 friends on the social networking site, all of whom have 500 of their own friends, “all of a sudden; thousands of people know what you’re talking about.” (WCxKit)
In August, one of the workers, identified as JT – who had close to 100 friends on Facebook, including his manager, FY – wrote the following on his page: “Sometimes ya have good smooth days, when nobodys f***ing with your ability to earn a living….and sometimes accidents DO happen, its unfortunate, but thats why [they’re] called accidents right?”
Concerned about the implications of this posting, FY began monitoring JT’s Facebook page, the decision notes. The worker deleted FY from his friends list and continued to write aggressive, derogatory comments about both the business and his supervisors. Due to the activity, FY logged onto the site using another name to monitor the activity.
Another worker, AP, also made negative comments on his own page, accusing the business of being “out to hose you” and implying that his supervisors were having a sexual relationship.
In the hearing, the workers were represented by Local 1518 the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, who suggested that the employer kept the postings on file to build a case for termination.
But West Coast Auto Group counters that it was due to the fact they had never encountered this type of problem before and were unsure of how to proceed. A judge accepted the employer’s explanation and concluded that the employer was not motivated by anti-union animus.
In dismissing the union’s argument, the judge stated that the workers “could not have a serious expectation of privacy when publishing comments on their Facebook Web sites and therefore the comments are damaging to the employer’s business.” She also suggests that the Facebook comments, although made online, amount to insubordination.
“I find that the nature of the comments made towards the supervisors were offensive and egregious,” she writes. “JT expressed contempt for and ridiculed the manager and supervisors in such a manner that there was proper cause.”
Jones argues that the comments could also be viewed as harassment.
“It’s no different than overhearing somebody talking bad in the shop with three or four other employees or face-to-face with a manager,” he says. “I know that my managers were quite uncomfortable with some of the comments being made and would have taken it personally.”
An attorney in Toronto who was asked about the case, advises employers to avoid looking at social networking sites.
“You may learn things that will cause you problems from a human rights perspective,” he cautions, noting that an employer could be accused of not hiring someone or terminating someone based on what was seen on one of these sites. (WCxKit)
As an employer, do you monitor what your employees do on social networking sites?
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com
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