Facebook Posts Could Lead to Discipline at Work



I will admit it. Everyday, along with tens of millions of others, I log onto my Facebook account to peruse the status updates of my 100 or so “friends” - a group made up of family, close friends, co-workers, and a random assortment of people I went to high school with, sat beside on the bus, or met in an elevator once. Recently, I noticed the status of one “friend” who had had a bad day at work and was clearly ready to vent about it. “Wait,” I told him. “I wouldn’t be too quick to post anything about work if I were you.” “Why?” he asked. “My page is private, and what does it matter what I do on my own time anyway?” From a legal perspective, these same questions have recently come into the limelight, as courts and labour arbitrators are now being called upon to decide whether employees can be disciplined - or even terminated - for making employment-related comments on social networking sites. The more that social networking becomes a part of everyday life - whether by way of Facebook, personal blogs, LinkedIn or Twitter (there may be others, but I suspect that even I am too old to keep up) - the more that these types of questions will need to be addressed. Freedom of Speech vs. Duty of Fidelity While employees do enjoy the same right to freedom of speech that every Canadian citizen does, that right must be balanced with the duty of fidelity an employee owes to his or her employer. As one Alberta arbitrator has recognized, employees do have a right to create social networking sites and are indeed entitled to post their opinions about the people they work with - but publicly displaying those opinions may have consequences within their employment relations. Where those publicly-made comments verge on expressing contempt for management, ridiculing co-workers or slamming administrative processes or management decisions, they may be cause for discipline, or even termination. Article continued below.

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