Yet another social media “oops” has surfaced in the news – and this time, it happened in Canada. This past Monday, three Toronto firefighters were terminated based on comments they made on social media. This recent decision was met with heavy criticism and sparked anger from their union, which insists that the firings do nothing to promote a culture of respect in the city’s fire hall (Source: City News).
What makes this case a little different from some of the other “social media blunders” we’ve seen in the past, is that their terminations resulted from a month-long investigation into the firefighter’s tweets and other social media posts. Toronto Fire Chief Jim Sales said that the investigation was launched after a media report in August said two firefighters had posted several posts on Twitter that were seen as degrading to women (Source: City News). Many of the posts in question were direct quotes from television shows like The Office and South Park.
Here are some of the tweets under fire from firefighter Matt Bowman (@Hero_Matt):
A few months later, firefighter Lawaun Edwards posted the following response to a friend’s tweet:
Upon learning of these tweets last month, Bowman and Edwards were both suspended with pay (Source: The Star). However, Sales has said that they have now been let go along with a third firefighter who has not yet been identified. The investigation discovered a “pattern” of inappropriate social media use and public comments that were in violation of the city policies (Source: City News).
As employees of the City of Toronto, firefighters are required to follow the city’s social media guidelines. These guidelines state that:
"Employees should not engage in harassment, personal attacks, or abuse toward individuals or organizations,” and “not use language that is discriminatory, hateful, or violent towards identifiable groups or that incites others to discriminate, practice hate or violence.”
It remains to be seen if these tweets were posted while on the job or during personal time. This is a question that has also surfaced in many other cases surrounding employee terminations due to inappropriate or discriminatory social media posts or actions (see Big Brother Blog and NFL Blog): Does behaviour displayed outside of the workplace hold the same weight as behaviour displayed within the workplace when it comes to terminations?
In a statement to the press, Jim Sales (on behalf of Toronto Fire Services) went on to say that:
“The Toronto public service fosters a corporate culture that sets the highest standard of integrity, professionalism, and ethical behaviour. It is our expectation all employees demonstrate and uphold these core values... Members of the Toronto Fire Service are in positions of public trust. This trust is paramount to the division’s ability to carry out its work and deliver critical services to all Toronto residents”.
In response to these terminations, the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association (Union) issued a public statement reading:
“The association is outraged by these terminations and will make every effort to have these members reinstated. These terminations neither address the specific issues that have been raised nor do they promote the alleged objectives of the fire service.”
So what do you think about these recent terminations? Are you siding with Toronto Fire Services on this one or the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association? Leave your comments below.
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Ever had a worker appeal a decision from the WSIB? Did you decide to participate? What are the implications of not participating?
We have conducted an interview with Senior Disability Management expert Jennifer Wright-Tahiraj to help us answer some of these common questions and gain insight into the importance of always participating in a worker appeal.
What reasons would a worker have to appeal a WSIB decision?
In many cases, the worker appeals a decision because it was not favourable for them. For example, if loss or earnings or entitlement were denied for the worker, they would typically appeal the decision because they didn’t get the benefits they were looking for from the WSIB.
What are some reasons why an employer might decide not to participate in a worker appeal?
There are really only two reasons why an employer wouldn’t participate in a worker appeal – if the worker’s claim is outside of the NEER window and if the worker is no longer employed with the company. If they are an employee and the claim is in the NEER window, the employer should participate.
How can an employer participate?
Once you receive notification that a worker is appealing a decision, it’s time to get legal representation. Clear Path has disability management consultants and a paralegal representative available to assist you with this entire process. Simply send us the information you received from the WSIB regarding the worker appeal and all of the paperwork will be completed and submitted by one of our consultants.
Is there a difference in being physically present versus providing a written submission?
There is. In most cases, the worker appeal will be an oral hearing – typically because this is what the worker tends to ask for. In a written hearing, a Clear Path consultant will prepare a written submission on behalf of the employer so that they do not have to be present at the hearing. So which should you provide? It varies based on each individual case and depends on what the appeal is for and who is initiating it.
Can you give some examples of appeals where previous decisions have been reversed?
I can recall one case where the worker appealed because they were denied a recurrence and loss of earnings for a surgery that had to take place. The employer chose not to participate and, in the end, the worker’s appeal was granted.
In this particular case, the recurrence wasn’t allowed but a new claim was established in its place. The end result? The original 2008 claim became a new 2011 claim where loss of earnings and benefits were allowed for his surgery that was to occur in 2012. Now the employer has an active claim on their NEER for this year’s September NEER review and they will have a significant surcharge as a result. If they had participated in the appeal with proper representation, it is possible that things may have unfolded differently.
Is there any recourse for an employer if a decision has been reversed?
If the WSIB’s decision was reversed at the ARO (Appeals Resolution Officer) level, the employer can then appeal the decision at the WSIAT level. However, if the decision was made at the WSIAT (Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal) level there is nothing that can be done because this is the last step of the appeal process. It is important to remember that you must appeal within the 6 month deadline.
Have any additional questions about WSIB claims management? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us today!
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