Employers Can Fire Employees for Nasty Comments Posted on Facebook - McQuarrie Hunter LLP

Employment Law Blog

To what extent can employees complain about their employers on social media? In one of the first decisions dealing with Facebook posts, the British Columbia Labour Review Board upheld a decision by an employer, Lougheed Imports Ltd. (the “Employer”) to fire two employees (the “Employees”) for posting nasty comments about their employer on Facebook.

The Employer ultimately fired the Employees and ended their employment contracts for just cause. What did the Employees post on their supposedly “private” Facebook pages that justified firing the Employees? The Employees were alleged to have posted various degrading and sexually explicit comments about the supervisors, including the following:

  1. If somebody mentally attacks you, and you stab him in the face 14 or 16 times….that constitutes self defence doesn’t it????
  2. … According to this reprimand at work …. My outburst yesterday was threatening and didn’t allow The WestCoastAutoGroup to conduct regular business…. well????All I Gotta say is they p***** off the WRONG GUY ….big time
  3. “Seems my Boss, whos owned the business 25 yrs & is fixed operations director of 2 dealerships as well…HE’S A COMPLETE JACK-***… not just Half-a Tard
  4. Is wondering if his 2 supervisors at work, go to the bathroom together?? And who holds who’s p**** while p******??
  5. I heard that Marco and [F.Y.] (two supervisors) were seen fondling each others *** **** in the shop bathroom?? Any truth to that? That shop ripped off a bunch ppl I know
  6. …none of the stereo s*** I bought there works, at all…Deck only plays store bought discs and subs are blown and amp is fried, again. The alpine stuff I bought from A&B works awesome tho
  7. west coast detail and accessory is a f**** joke….dont spend your money there as they are f**** crooks and are out to hose you… there a bunch of greedy c******** low life scumbags…
  8. That shop ripped off a bunch ppl I know. All in humour,, however,, none of the stereo s*** I bought there works, at all
  9. west coast detail and accessory is a f***** joke….dont spend your money there as they are f***** crooks and are out to hose you… there a bunch of greedy c******** low life scumbags

Prior to firing the Employees, the Employer conducted investigatory meetings with the Employees, where both denied making the Facebook comments. Both claimed that the statements were made by others (e.g. by hackers). One of the Employees deleted his Facebook account. The next day, both Employees were fired.

The Employees were unionized workers. The Union attacked the firing of the Employees by alleging that the Employers were engaging in anti-union labour practices. The Employer defended itself by stating that the postings amounted to insubordination, and further, the postings created a hostile work environment and damaged the Employer’s reputation and business interests.

The arbitrator at the Labour Relations Board found that the Employees did in fact make those postings and that the Employer’s conduct were not motivated by anti-union sentiment. The postings on Facebook were not the same as inappropriate comments made on the floor, as these Facebook postings were damaging to the Employer’s business.

The comments were made to hundreds of people. Collectively, the Employees had approximately 477 “friends” on Facebook. Therefore, the Employees could not have had a serious expectation of privacy when publishing them on Facebook. The comments were “offensive, insulting, and disrespectful” and the parties referenced could be easily identified. This was sufficient to amount to insubordination. Termination was not disproportionate under these circumstances.

See the full decision at: Lougheed Imports Ltd. (West Coast Mazda) v. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1518, 2010 CanLII 62482 (BC LRB).

If you have a similar problem at your workplace, please contact our Employment Law Lawyers today.