Fired for a Facebook Post, Lawyers Say It's a Sign of the Times
A man from London, Ontario was fired from his job at a clothing store for making an insensitive comment on a Facebook page dedicated to BC teen Amanda Todd, who recently took her life after being bullied.
The man wrote "thank God this b---- is dead."
A Calgary mom tracked down the London man, contacted his employer, and he was fired.
Employment lawyers say cases like these, are a sign of the times.
"Social media have radically changed the way that we need to consider theses things because one very small innocuous comment all of a sudden goes viral," says John McGowan of Cassels Brock.
"I think that anybody applying for a job, anybody that's employed, go ahead and exercise your freedom of speech but don't for a minute think that your employer might not know about that."
He and other employment law experts say the bottom line is that you can be fired for anything that makes the company look bad, so you'd better be careful. And they add that more and more, employers are putting wide-reaching policies in place to govern your use of social media.
"Employees have been disciplined for misconduct, for making damaging and disparaging remarks about the employer or just engaging in online bullying," says Toronto employment lawyer Dorian Persaud.
Lawyer Lauren Bernardi of Bernardi Human Resource Law thinks this case is a "fantastically interesting one," but is something that may not necessarily be all that new, and often, decisions to let go of employees for social media mistakes are being upheld in court.
"It's just one that was so outrageous that it made the front page, but we're seeing more and more of these situations that are quietly leading to people getting terminated."
The comments made on the Facebook page were so offensive to Christine Claveau that she says she had to take action.
"It made my stomach turn that someone could write that, after this person had committed suicide. It was terrible.''
Claveau said she clicked the link to the man's Facebook page and his employer, Mr. Big & Tall, was listed. She then sent an email to the men's clothing company detailing what the man had done.
Dave McGregor, the president of Grafton-Fraser, which owns Mr. Big & Tall, confirmed in an email the man no longer works for the company.
"Our company ethics are based on tolerance, respect and fair and honourable treatment of all individuals, internally, with our customers and the population as a whole,'' he said.
A month before she killed herself, Amanda posted a video on YouTube describing how she had been sexually exploited by an online stalker and bullied by her peers. Her story has sparked more than 100 memorial pages on Facebook and renewed calls across the country to fight bullying.
(With files from the Canadian Press)