As Facebook's popularity continues to grow, so too do the
consequences of its misuse by employees. This is highlighted by two
recent arbitral decisions in which terminations were upheld on the
basis of content posted on Facebook by employees while
In Lougheed Imports Ltd. (c.o.b. West Coast
Mazda),1 the manager of West Coast Mazda had viewed
numerous Facebook postings that he believed were damaging to the
company and insulting and disrespectful to supervisors and
managers. The comments had been posted by two other employees of
the company who were listed as the manager's
"friends" on Facebook and thus open for the manager and
others to view. The employees were fired based on these
The terminations were challenged by the employees' union on
the basis that the dismissals had been, in part, motivated by
anti-union animus. The terminations were upheld at arbitration on
the basis that the comments were offensive, egregious and should be
treated as comments made on the "shop floor."
Specifically, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board noted
that one of the comments posted on Facebook explicitly named the
company and attempted to encourage people not to spend money at
West Coast Mazda. The comments were also found to have
"ridiculed the managers and supervisors" to a degree that
supported cause for their termination.
Similarly, in Re Wasaya Airways LP and Air Line Pilots
Association, International (Wyndels),2 the company
terminated one of its pilots because of a comment posted on his
Facebook "wall." Wasaya Airways is a company owned by a
First Nations community that serves primarily First Nations
communities, and the posted comment disparaged First Nations
communities and the company. The termination was upheld at
arbitration. The arbitrator's decision focused on the finding
that the grievor's actions constituted off-duty misconduct that
posed a potential harm to the company's reputation and ability
to carry out its business.
Work-Related Postings and their Consequences
These decisions make it clear that personal, off-duty comments
made by an employee that become public can be acted upon by his or
her employer. Such misconduct can have a direct impact on workplace
relationships, particularly when the comments are detrimental to
the company's business or undermine the authority of
management. In addition, comments that in and of themselves
constitute harassment or insubordination can lead to
In light of renewed emphasis on preventing workplace harassment
and violence, employers cannot ignore issues of workplace bullying
even when they take place on Facebook, on other social networking
websites, off the shop floor or outside the office.
There are several proactive measures an employer can take in
light of the potential liabilities associated with employee use of
Facebook or similar social network sites. Through properly drafted
company policies, employers are permitted to establish rules to
regulate employee behaviour, including the use of social networking
websites on and off company premises. This includes reminding
employees that such off-duty conduct can be the subject of
discipline and discharge when such conduct affects the company
and/or co-workers. Furthermore, company policies and training on
workplace violence and harassment prevention should include
prohibitions on improper social media conduct. Commentary made by
individuals on Facebook, when disclosed or accessible to others or
the public, may not be considered private and can be subject to a
complaint and an investigation where the content involves the
harassment or bullying of other employees.
The legal issues arising from the use of social networking
websites are becoming increasingly prevalent. It is essential to
confront these potential liabilities proactively before they
negatively affect your workplace.
1.  B.C.L.R.B.D. No. 190.
2. (2010), 195 L.A.C. (4th) 1.
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