Canada: Facing Discipline For Facebook Postings

Last Updated: May 8 2012
Article by Parisa Nikfarjam, Student-at-Law

Most Read Contributor in Canada, July 2019

Edited by Jennifer M. Fantini and Naomi E. Calla

More than ever, Facebook and other social media networks serve as a means of communication and a source of information. However, two recent decisions show that these networks can also serve as mediums for off-duty misconduct and that their misuse by employees can lead to disciplinary action. A posting on a Facebook page that harms the reputation of an employer may be grounds for discipline. Although the poster may have a perceived sense of privacy, this perception may not justify one's conduct online.

One of the first clear analyses relating to termination of employees for a post on Facebook was provided by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (the "Board").

In United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1518 v. Lougheed Imports Ltd. ("Lougheed Imports"), two employees of an automobile dealing and accessory shop were terminated for posting offensive statements about their employer on their Facebook accounts.1

The posts included homophobic comments, angry status updates and violent statements regarding management figures. The postings named the employers, called them crooks and warned the public not to spend their money at the shop.

During the employer's investigation, the employees did not accept responsibility for their misconduct. One of the employees alleged that comments were not made by him at all and were the result of another party hacking into his Facebook account. The employer terminated the employment of both employees for cause.

The Union filed complaints with the Board and argued that the dismissals were motivated by anti-union animus and constituted an unfair labour practice. Moreover, the union argued that the Facebook comments did not irreparably sever the employment relationship and as such, did not justify termination.

The Board found, as a preliminary matter, that because the comments were published on Facebook and were accessible to hundreds of "Facebook friends", there was no expectation of privacy. The Board held that the comments about management amounted to insubordination. Moreover, the Board concluded that the nature of the comments constituted "egregious" misconduct and justified termination.

The analysis of the Board in Lougheed Imports was applied in Wasaya Airways LP and Air Line Pilots Association International, to determine whether a unionized employer had just cause to terminate a pilot for comments he made on Facebook.2

The employer was an airline owned and operated by First Nations communities. The employer dismissed the pilot after he posted derogatory comments with racial undertones. The comments were not explicit to First Nations people nor did they identify the pilot or his employer. It was, however, discernible that the pilot worked for an airline and that he had experience with First Nations people. A co-worker, who was "Facebook friends" with the pilot replied to the posts with his own disparaging remarks.

The pilot took responsibility for the posts and provided a written apology. The pilot was, nevertheless, terminated and his co-worker was disciplined.

The Union argued that while discipline may be warranted, termination was excessive in this case. The employer had no specific policy with respect to an employee's use of Facebook or other social media. The employer did, however, have a mission statement that embraced First Nations values and its commitment to serving that community.

The Arbitrator agreed with the Union that the penalty of termination was excessive. However, the Arbitrator found that based on the mission statement of the company, the Facebook posts were harmful to the employer's reputation. Given the employer's intention to not work with the pilot again, the Arbitrator substituted the penalty of a three month deemed suspension (with pay and benefits), following which the pilot was to resign from the company.

These two recent decisions provide several factors for analyzing when an employer can discipline an employee for posts on publicly accessible websites such as Facebook:

  • In both cases, the decision makers rejected that use of Facebook was akin to a private discussion amongst friends and instead determined that it was public. As such, the defense of a perceived sense of privacy may no longer be viable in cases where the employee's posts are available to many "Facebook friends".
  • In both cases, the decision makers considered the cooperation and honesty of the employee during the investigation to justify the maintenance or substitution of discipline.
  • If the employee admitted his misconduct and provided an apology, the decision maker seemed more likely to lessen the penalty imposed by the employer. In both cases, the decision makers assessed whether the employer had a policy with respect to employee use of Facebook or other social media. The absence of such a policy may mitigate against harsher disciplinary action.
  • In both cases, the decision makers assessed the extent to which the comments referenced and damaged the reputation of the employer.

Discipline, and even termination, may be justified for Facebook postings as they are public comments with potentially detrimental effects for employers.

Employers should consider implementing a social media policy and training staff on the acceptable use of public forums such as Facebook so as to avoid the situations in the above-noted decisions. While termination is now a justified disciplinary action for off-duty misconduct through social media, employers may also wish to work with employees to remove the inappropriate comment(s) from Facebook or other social networks before resorting to termination.


1 [2010] BCLRBD No 190 (QL).

2 [2010] CLAD No. 297 (QL).

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions