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Alberta arbitrator: derogatory/threatening Facebook postings about supervisors justified dismissal for cause

Jurisdiction: - Alberta

In Canada Post v. Canadian Union of Postal Workers, [2012] C.L.A.D. No. 85 (March 21, 2012 Ponak) an Alberta arbitrator ruled that employee's derogatory and threatening Facebook postings about her supervisors justified dismissal for cause.

The headnote of the decision summarizes it as follows:

The grievor, a postal clerk with 31 years of service, was discharged after management became aware of her postings on her Facebook account. The postings were made over a one-month period and contained a number of derogatory, mocking statements about her supervisors and the employer. The employer argued that the postings were grossly insubordinate, had the potential to damage the reputation of the employer, and had greatly harmed the supervisors. The employer pointed out that the grievor was unapologetic, blaming her supervisors for creating an intolerable work environment that justified her postings. The union accepted that the postings were regrettable but argued that they were the result of a toxic work environment. The grievor also thought her postings were private. The union submitted that dismissal was too harsh a penalty.

HELD: Grievance dismissed. The postings on Facebook were abusive, intimidating and mocking. They were disseminated to the grievor's friends, who included other employees of the employer. Discovery of the postings harmed the targeted managers. Both managers substantial time off work for emotional distress and one required medical care. While the grievor might have believed that her postings were private, that did not relieve her of the responsibility for what she wrote. The arbitrator rejected the union's contention that the grievor was a heavy drinker or suffered from mental illness as reasons for diminished responsibility. The grievor's provocation defence failed because her response on Facebook was grossly disproportionate to the events complained of. The employer had just cause to dismiss the grievor.

An article about the decision by Sara Parchello at Faskens in Toronto can be found here: "Facebook Can Be an Unfriendly Place" (September 18, 2012).