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Posts on Facebook cut tribunal settlement by $1,000

Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 in Legal, Moneyville | 0 comments

Read this blog and comments on moneyville

   December 06, 2012

In the first case of its kind, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has reduced damages in a confidential settlement because the complainant talked about the award on Facebook during and after the mediation.

Trish-Ann Tremblay worked for a Subway restaurant in Cornwall, Ontario. The store was owned by Louis Gaulin, who she claimed fired her after she complained about derogatory comments made by a male co-worker.

Tremblay  took her case to the Human Rights Tribunal. She and Gaulin agreed to a settlement, where Gaulin did not admit liability, but would pay Tremblay an undisclosed amount. Both parties agreed to keep the details confidential and only discuss them with immediate family, or legal and financial advisers.

The day after the settlement was reached, Gaulin found out that Tremblay had posted the following Facebook messages:

1.    During the mediation session:  “Sitting in court now and _________ [blank in original posting] is feeding them a  bunch of bull…. I don’t care but I’m not leaving here without my money…lol.”
2.    After the Minutes of Settlement were signed: “Well court is done didn’t get what I wanted but I still walked away  with some…”
3.     About four hours later: “Well my mother always said something is better than nothing…thank you so much saphir  [a  friend who attended the mediation with Tremblay] for coming today….”

Gaulin was upset and refused to pay. Confidentiality was particularly important to him, because Cornwall is a small community. His concern related to the reputation of his business and also that others might see an  application or suing as “easy.”

The parties went back to the Tribunal. The adjudicator Ian Mackenzie noted that Tremblay did not deny she was made the posts, but argued Gaulin had no proof the postings were about the settlement.

Related: Fired diabetic gets $20,000 for discrimination

Mackenzie  decided that given the timing of the posts and the comments, Tremblay had breached the confidentiality agreement. He reduced her settlement by $1,000, taking into account that she did not disclose the actual amount of the settlement.

This decision includes several key lessons:

•    If you breach an agreement to keep settlement details confidential, it could cost you.
•    Comments posted on Facebook are not private. Simply indicating there was a settlement resulted in a reduction of damages. The discount would have been larger if Tremblay disclosed the actual dollar figure agreed upon.

Related: Related: Fired architect gets $15,000 for discrimination

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