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Recent Ontario Decision Confirms That Social Media Spaces Are Part Of The Workplace

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The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113 v. Toronto Transit Commission (Use of Social Media Grievance), [2016] O.L.A.A. No. 267 decision deals with the use of social media in the workplace, and to what extent employers are required to manage their accounts in a way that protects their employees.

The employer created a Twitter account for the purpose of communicating with customers regarding service inquiries and concerns. Although most 'tweets' were legitimate requests for information, the Arbitrator accepted that a minority were vulgar, offensive, abusive, racist, homophobic, sexist, and/or threatening. The union took issue with the employer's handling of these 'tweets', alleging that the employer was not doing enough to protect its employees. The employer's general practice was to respond with information regarding the formal complaints process.

The Arbitrator agreed with the union that the employer did not take all reasonable and practical measures to protect their employees from harassment. But the Arbitrator refused to grant the union's request for an order requiring the employer to shut down the Twitter account. Instead, the Arbitrator suggested that the employer and the union should establish mutually agreed upon strategies for dealing with the types of inappropriate 'tweets' addressed in the decision.

Of note for employers moving forward, the Arbitrator held that social media sites such as public Twitter accounts can be considered part of the workplace. This Ontario arbitration decision provides an extensive consideration of the use of social media in the workplace, and will certainly be considered in future grievances on this topic, both in Ontario and elsewhere.

Note: This a reprint of an article by William Armstron Q.C. of Rose Fulbright Canada LLP.


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