In a recent decision, the BC Supreme Court found that an employee was wrongfully dismissed by her employer over comments she made on social media.
The plaintiff was the Senior Communications Manager for the International Triathlon Union (ITU). Part of her job involved active use of social media to attract new fans to the sport. Accordingly, the plaintiff maintained both professional and personal profiles on a number of social media platforms. During her employment, she made a number of negative references to the ITU and members of various national triathlon organizations on Facebook and Twitter. Several of these comments were made on her professional Twitter account. After receiving multiple complaints, the defendant terminated her employment for cause.
At trial, the Court found that the employer had not met the onus of proof required to justify the plaintiff’s dismissal for cause. In particular, the Court focused on the fact that the employee had never been disciplined or reprimanded for her conduct on social media before being fired. Ultimately, the Court awarded the plaintiff five months’ salary as damages in lieu of notice for her wrongful dismissal.
This decision provides important insight into how employers should navigate the evolving area of employees and social media. At a minimum, employers should have a clear policy regarding social media and ensure that their employees are familiar with it. Secondly, an employee’s violation of the social media policy should be dealt with using progressive discipline whenever possible.
Questions relating to the content in this article may be directed to Matthew Cooperwilliams