An Alberta arbitration board has recently released a
decision concerning the dismissal of an employee as a result of
the contents of the employee's online blog site. In
this case, an administrative employee in the Alberta Public
Service (the "Grievor") was dismissed after the
employer became aware of the contents of her personal blog.
The Grievor's blog contained unflattering comments
about a number of her co-workers and management, referring to
them as "imbeciles", "idiot savants" and
"lunatic-in-charge". After an investigation, the
Grievor was interviewed about her blog. Perceiving the Grievor
as largely unrepentant, the employer terminated the
The employer took the position that the contents of the blog
postings, the Grievor's lack of remorse and lack of
understanding as to why the blog had been so offensive
undermined the employment relationship irreparably, thereby
justifying the Grievor's termination. This was
especially so, in the employer's view, in a department
that handled sensitive cases and whose well publicized values
emphasized respect, fairness, and cooperation.
The Grievor's union, in challenging the dismissal,
argued that the employer had overreacted, that the
Grievor's attempts at an apology had been derailed by
management, and that the Grievor had a previously unblemished
record of six years service. As a remedy, the union sought
reinstatement with appropriate compensation. The employer
replied that in a relatively small workplace, it would be very
unfair to the Grievor's co-workers for the Grievor to
be reinstated in her employment.
In a 2-1 decision, the arbitration board denied the
grievance and upheld the dismissal. The Board concluded that
"while the Grievor has a right to create personal
blogs and is entitled to her opinions about the people with
whom she works, publicly displaying those opinions may have
consequences within an employment relationship." The
Board was satisfied that the Grievor, in expressing contempt
for her managers, ridiculing her co-workers, and denigrating
administrative processes, engaged in serious misconduct that
irreparably severed the employment relationship, thereby
Employees cannot simply invoke freedom of speech to publicly
make derogatory comments online about co-workers or management
or to disclose confidential information obtained in the course
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general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
be sought about your specific circumstances.
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