Social media can be a wonderful platform to interact with
customers. Amongst other things, it can promote positivity, as well
as provide direct interaction with customer service. However, it
can also be an avenue for derogatory, abusive, offensive, and
inappropriate statements about your employees. How you handle the
legitimate complaints and trolls is important for any employer with
a social media profile.
Employers have an obligation to maintain a harassment free
workplace. As one recent arbitrator found, this obligation can
extend to comments posted to an internet site controlled by the
TCC set up the @TTChelps Twitter account as a way to keep in
contact with the public and field customer complaints. @TTChelps
would often respond to Tweets with such statements as "Sorry
to hear that" or "that doesn't sound right" and
would ask for badge numbers of drivers and additional information
such as the bus line. @TTChelps would also direct users on how to
formally complain through the phone or the website.
While @TTChelps often responded to customer inquiries about
route changes or TCC policy, the account also received Tweets which
included derogatory, abusive, offensive, and inappropriate
statements about TTC staff. Sometimes the Tweets included photos or
other information which could be used to identify the TTC driver
subject to the inappropriate statement.
Unlike Facebook or other forms of social media, Twitter does not
allow companies to delete negative or derogatory posts. On Twitter,
users can block or report other users. However, @TTChelps rarely
used this function. @TTChelps account would respond to certain
Tweets with an approach like "we understand your frustration
but please refrain from profanity." It would not take any
steps to ask the user to remove the post.
The arbitrator found that the TTC's conduct was contrary to
its obligation to provide a safe workplace, free from harassment.
The arbitrator found that it was not appropriate to take complaints
about employees through social media or to discuss them publicly.
Further, the arbitrator found that @TTChelps allowed the public to
subject employees to all sorts of abuse, including derogatory
language, sexual harassment, sexist and racist comments, and
threats of violence. As such, the TTC was violating its obligation
to take positive and reasonable steps to ensure that its workplace
was free from harassment.
TTC was ordered to develop a social media policy and take steps
to block or report users who posted offensive messages.
While each company will take a different approach to its social
media profile and policies regarding its use, it is important to
have an appropriate policy and consider the various legal
obligations involved. Common law, contracts, collective agreements,
and statutory regimes such as workplace health and safety, human
rights and privacy are all important factors in determining how an
organization ought to approach social media. The TTC case is
another reminder that what happens on the internet can have
workplace implications. You should have a policy for that.
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.
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