Employee wrongfully dismissed for social media postings

International organization had serious concerns over employee’s social media use and attitude but never officially warned her until her dismissal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/07/2015

Just cause for dismissal can be difficult for employers to prove, as courts and arbitrators will generally lean in favour of the employee, who is seen to be on the weaker side of a power imbalance of the employment relationship. Employees are generally seen to be more dependent on their jobs for reasons of financial support and identity, so it’s a serious situation if they lose those jobs. So to terminate employment without giving reasonable notice or pay in lieu thereof, there needs to be proof of serious misconduct – and an opportunity for the employees to resolve the issues that put their employment in jeopardy in the first place.

Giving employees a chance to fix things is a key element of just cause. The concept of progressive discipline – where an employee receives a series of warnings and guidance to help them improve and potentially save her job – is commonly accepted in employment law. If an employee is terminated for reasons that are a complete surprise to her, then there’s a chance the termination might not sticek – or at least just cause won’t.