September 15th, 2007

Big Brother may be watching

 Interesting item from a friend in law

Indiscriminate Blogging by Employees May Breach Confidentiality Requirement

September 2007
Employment and Labour Law

In a recent Ontario arbitration award, Chatham-Kent (Municipality) v. National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada (CAW-Canada), Local 127 (Clarke Grievance),[1] the termination of a unionized retirement home employee was upheld by an arbitrator for acts of insubordination and breach of confidentiality. The grievor, an eight year employee of a retirement home, had set up an internet blog that could be read by any member of the public with internet access. On her blog, the grievor made disparaging statements about her employer. The grievor also made statements criticizing and expressing her dislike for residents of the home. As noted by Arbitrator Williamson, the blog was “blunt and laced with coarse language.”

Management became aware of the grievor’s blog and the grievor was terminated for breach of confidentiality and insubordination. This decision provides interesting insights for employers concerned with the activities of their employees on the internet. Internet blogging pages create potential for a very public dissemination of personal views about management, and of confidential information. A question that the decision raises is whether it is appropriate to distinguish between websites such as Facebook where access to one’s web page is limited to personal contacts, and websites such as Blogger.com or MySpace, where one’s webpage is accessible to the general public. When an employee is disciplined for making disparaging comments about management, it may be a relevant factor whether the comments were made to a small circle of friends, or to the public at large. Similarly, for communications via the internet, such a distinction may be relevant in determining the appropriate level of discipline for insubordinate conduct. 

From the website of legal firm
www.OgilvyRenault.com

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