A recent arbitration, “Transit Union, Local 113 v. Toronto Transit Commission,” found that the TTC didn’t do everything it could have to protect its employees from harassment and discrimination when it came to abusive posts from the public on its official TTC Twitter account.
The Toronto Transit Commission created an official Twitter account to enhance communication with the general public. Customers could tweet to the TTC anytime they had questions, concerns or desired to raise other issues. And while the majority of the tweets were legitimate requests looking for clarification or other information, the Arbitrator of the case recognized that a small number of tweets were offensive, vulgar, racist, sexist, abusive, homophobic or threatening in nature.
The Union raised an objection to the way in which the TTC handled the tweets, saying it didn’t do enough to protect its employees from exposure to hostilities. And while the Arbitrator agreed with the Union, it refused to order the TTC to shut down their Twitter account.
The Arbitrator, instead, indicated that the Union and the employer should work together to create mutually agreed upon guidelines and strategies for dealing with inappropriate comments from the Twitter account.
Companies with an online or social media presence should do their best to protect their employees from online harassment or exposure to derogatory or inappropriate comments by:
- Creating a clearly defined social media policy that covers all employees and any social media platforms where the company has a public profile.
- Respond to all inappropriate comments made on social media by indicating the company will not tolerate abusive, offensive or inflammatory comments, and that users who make such statements will be blocked or otherwise prevented from making future posts.
- In the case where members of the public post images or other likenesses of employees on a social media platform, the company should reach out to the social media company to request that these images be removed.
- All businesses with a social media presence must carefully monitor online comments and communications, immediately addressing any inappropriate posts made.
Since sites, such as Twitter, are now considered an “extension of the workplace” according to the Arbitrator, employers must work to protect their staff from exposure to hostilities from the general public. Failure to do so could result in the company’s liability in future grievances.