Managers File Complaints About Employees’ Offensive Blog Posts, But Remedy Denied

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Usually employees complain about their managers, not the other way around.

In an interesting case, a group of managers, who complained that their workplace had been poisoned by the employer’s inaction in the face of offensive blog postings by their employees, has been denied a remedy.

The managers were Operational Managers at the Middlesex Detention Centre.  They complained about a blog associated with a local of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.  Some of the blog posts alleged managerial corruption or negligence, such as having “screwed up” an attendance management program.  The blog posts used words such as “useless”, “pathetic”, “vindictive”, “morons” and “misfits”.  Cartoons and comments referred to “kangaroo courts” imposing discipline on the employees.  The blogs characterized the managers’ “pay for performance” as being bonuses for “screwing up”.

The blog was initially not password-protected but at some point password-protection was added.

The managers argued that the blog comments were “harassment” and violated the employer’s harassment policy and that by not acting on those violations, the employer breached the terms and conditions of the managers’ employment contracts.

The Public Service Grievance Board held that senior management – who managed the complaining managers – had not violated the complaining managers’ terms and conditions of employment in the way that the blog issue was handled.  In particular, senior management did not violate the employers’ policies in the way they handled the issue.  Senior management made clear to all employees that the disrespectful portions of the blog were not to be tolerated, and was instrumental in getting the blog removed from the public domain.   That senior management did not pursue the matter further after password-protection was added to the blog was an exercise in discretion that did not breach the managers’ employment contracts.  As such, the complaints of the managers were dismissed.

Although senior management’s handling of the blog issue was considered reasonable, had the facts been different – and the offensive blog posts continued to be accessible to the public – the Public Service Grievance Board may have granted a remedy.

Lee et al and The Crown in Right of Ontario (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services), 2013 CanLII 4672 (Ontario Public Service Grievance Board)