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Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
The woman, with 31 years of service, worked at a postal depot in Edmonton where there was considerable labour unrest. The friction related to management’s efforts to minimize socializing on the job and increase productivity. One result was verbal clashes between older workers and a 24-year old supervisor. The woman participated in these events and was given a three day disciplinary suspension without pay from October 20 – 22, 2009 – before her Facebook postings were discovered in mid-November. Subsequently she was fired.
The 30 postings contained derogatory, mocking statements about her supervisors and Canada Post. In several comments the woman suggested she had a voodoo doll of one supervisor and if she hadn’t been drinking, “she would take her out on the driveway and run her over.” These threatening posts were sent to more than 50 of the clerk’s Facebook friends including several co-workers.
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The two supervisors disparaged were distraught when they heard about and read the postings and took time off work for emotional distress.
Canada Post argued that the postings were grossly insubordinate, could damage the organization and greatly harmed the supervisors. Canada Post also pointed out that the woman was unapologetic, and justified her actions by blaming her supervisors for creating an intolerable work environment. Under the circumstances and despite her long service, the employer maintained that termination was warranted.
The union grieved her firing, but accepted the postings were regrettable and ought not to have been made. They argued however, that a toxic work environment explained why the woman had chosen to vent her frustration in this manner and noted she believed her Facebook postings were private. Considering the woman’s long service and how close she was to retirement, the union suggested that discharge was too harsh.
In a decision released in March, the arbitrator acknowledged the woman’s age and length of service might in some circumstances be grounds for reinstatement. However, he found that her attitude made her a poor candidate for reestablishing the employment relationship and that she simply refused to accept accountability for her actions. As a result, he concluded that Canada Post had just cause to terminate her.
The moral of this story?
If you have beefs about your employer or co-workers, don’t post them on Facebook or any other social media site. You do not know who your “friends” really are. And even if think you are restricting access to a select few people, you are leaving a digital trail that can come back and bite you.
Related: Fired? Be careful where you sue