Social media has become entrenched in our society and millions of employees use it on a daily basis. However, employees are warned that making negative comments about their employers on social media can have significant repercussions. Arbitrator Norm Jesin recently upheld a just cause termination in part because the Grievor had made negative comments about the employer on Facebook after his employment had been terminated.
In SEIU, Local 1 (Cory Tucker) and Specialty Care Trillium Centre, the Union filed a grievance alleging that the Grievor, Mr. Tucker, had been dismissed without cause. Mr. Tucker had a lengthy disciplinary record and had been upset with his supervisors following a test for a new job. The Employer alleged that based on his disciplinary record, his threatening behavior following the test and allegations that he had brought a gun to the workplace, it had grounds to terminate him for cause.
In addition, after the Employer had terminated the Grievor, the Grievor posted a negative comment on Facebook that the Arbitrator described as follows:
In argument, the Employer stated that the Grievor’s Facebook posts proved that he did not respect management and that it substantiated his just cause termination. The Union argue that there was no just cause and in the alternative, the Facebook post would suggest that payment in lieu of reinstatement might be appropriate.
Arbitrator Jesin concluded that there was just cause for the Grievor’s dismissal and held that his continuing negative feelings about his Manager and the Employer reflected in his Facebook post further justified his termination.
This case highlights that employees can and will be disciplined and terminated by employers for their comments on their social media. Therefore, employees are wise not to publicly disparage either their former managers or employers after any termination.
The case also highlights that it is a good practice to implement rules governing the use of social media by employees in employment contracts or policies and to also include non-disparagement clauses in severance agreements.
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