Psst! You’re fired

Office gossips get the boot after nasty rumours circulate through town hall
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Four employees of the town of Hooksett, N.H., have been fired after they gossiped about their boss.

In the spring of 2007, rumours of an affair between town administrator David Jodoin and another town employee — both married — spread through the town hall when the female employee was given what was considered preferential treatment. Jodoin was very disturbed by the rumours and tried to trace the rumour to see where it was coming from. He learned four employees in particular had been discussing the rumour and one used an expletive to refer to him and made a snide remark to the female employee. Jodoin fired the four employees for insubordination for the insult and dishonesty, as they knew the rumour wasn’t true when they repeated it.

The employees — tax assessor Sandra Piper, Piper’s assistant Joanne Drewniak, code enforcement officer Michelle Bonsteel and Bonsteel’s assistant Jessica Skorupski — were all long-term employees who had good performance reviews. They protested the firings, saying they didn’t know whether the rumour was true at the time, it didn’t originate with them and they only discussed it briefly before dismissing it.

The four women, who made up about one-quarter of the town’s staff, argued everybody in the office gossiped and it was unfair to single them out. However, despite the women’s arguments and outcry from citizens of the town of 13,000, the town council confirmed the firings. The women are rumoured to be considering suing the town.

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