Postings that employer staffed by "crooks” and “hosed customers” justified terminations

In what some are calling a first in Canada, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board has upheld the dismissal of two employees for Facebook posts about their employer.

The BCLRB determined that West Coast Mazda had cause to dismiss two unionized employees for Facebook postings referring to their supervisor as “a complete Jack‐Ass” and suggesting that their employer was staffed by “crooks” that were out to “hose” customers.

Because the two employees had 100 and 377 Facebook friends respectively, including present and former coworkers, the BCLRB ruled that they did not have a serious expectation of privacy over their Facebook postings. Instead, the comments were akin to comments made on the shop floor and thus were insubordinate. Thus, the employer could act on the postings.

The BCLRB found that the terminations were not motivated by anti‐union animus. The employees’ clean disciplinary record did “…not outweigh the fact that the Employer had never encountered similar conduct, and the work offence was serious insubordination and conduct damaging to the Employer’s reputation.” The employees compounded their misconduct when they lied during the investigation by denying making the statements and accusing others of logging onto or hacking into their personal Facebook accounts.

The case shows that employers can discipline employees for postings on Facebook or social media – just as for utterances in the workplace – where the postings are widely accessible and harm the employer’s business or reputation. Employers’ discipline cases will be stronger if they have reasonable Internet / social media policies that set out where – and how – employees can communicate publicly about the employer and their coworkers.

Lougheed Imports Ltd. v. UFCW (B.C. Labour Relations Board)