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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