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B.C. employer justified in firing traffic flagger for posts she made on Facebook: Tribunal

by HR Law Canada

Way to Go Traffic Solutions (WTG) was justified in firing one of its workers due to her conduct on social media, the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled.

The worker, a traffic flagger for WTG, claimed that she was wrongfully dismissed after refusing to perform unsafe work.

She sought $2,850 in damages, alleging that her employment was terminated via text message without warning. She also accused a client’s employee of racist and discriminatory conduct and claimed that WTG discouraged other companies from hiring her post-termination.

WTG countered that the worker was dismissed for cause due to false allegations against a client and disparaging remarks made on social media. WTG argued that she was still in her probationary period, thus not entitled to compensation.

No employment contract

There was no evidence of a written contract in this case, and the worker — C.W. — provided copies of pay stubs showing that she was paid $30 per hour. On Jan. 20, 2023, she signed a document titled “Three Month Probation Clause.”

C.W. did not specifically state how she arrived at the damage amount of $2,850. She said she was subjected to racist conduct at the jobsite and was sworn at and shouted at, was harassed by a truck driver, and said her life was endangered by the incidents.

WTG denied the allegations and countered that, on April 5, 2023, C.W. seemed confused and did not do the work that was requested. Later that night, she posted on Facebook that a colleague was a racist who bullied her. She also disparaged one of WTG’s clients, saying that its workers “can go fuck themselves, they think they are entitled fucking assholes.”

On April 6, 2023, it terminated her employment because of the social media posts.

Tribunal’s ruling

The tribunal noted that C.W. did not provide any evidence to support her version of events. But even if it did, her conduct was “seriously incompatible with her duty to her employer. I find that by publicly criticizing and swearing about her employer, its clients, and its client’s employee, (her) conduct fundamentally damaged the employment relationship.”

It noted that an employee’s off-duty conduct can be cause for summary dismissal where the conduct “interferes with and prejudices the employer’s business interests or its reputation with the public,” citing the ruling in Klonteig v. West Kelowna (District), 2018 BCSC 124.

Her claims for damages were dismissed, as was WTG’s claim for $1,500 in dispute-related expenses due to a lack of supporting documentation.

Lessons from this ruling

  1. Documented Evidence: Maintaining thorough records and documentation can be crucial in defending against wrongful dismissal claims.
  2. Social Media Policy: Establishing and enforcing a clear social media policy can help manage employee conduct that might impact the business.
  3. Handling Off-Duty Conduct: Employers must be aware that off-duty conduct, especially when publicly shared, can justify disciplinary action if it negatively affects the business.

For more information, see West v. Way to Go Traffic Solutions Ltd., 2024 BCCRT 483 (CanLII).

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