Fired on Facebook

Crystal Bell had no issues being hired through the social networking site, Facebook.  When it came to her firing, she considered it the “the coward’s way out”.

Bell, A Spa worker, was initially hired via Facebook.  She had been working just under 2 weeks when her boss called a workplace wide meeting during Ms. Bell’s day off.  When Bell failed the show up for the meeting, salon manager Susanne Woerhie, wanted to terminate the employment relationship immediately.  She tried to contact bell on the phone, she never received an answer and the voicemail box was full.  Woerhie then decided to inform Bell of her termination through a Facebook message.

Bell, assuming the Facebook message was some poorly constructed practical joke, was further embarrassed when she arrived at work ready for her next shift, willing to take part in her duties for the day.

I have previously written about the prevalence of Facebook and the associated legal implications.

In Honda v. Keays, The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that employees are able to collect damages for mental distress stemming from bad faith conduct in the manner of termination.  The decision may have raised the threshold for proving such damages but it nevertheless still gives employees an avenue to seek recourse for their employer’s insensitive actions.

Can this decision be applied in the new Facebook era?

Imagine, using Ms. Bell’s case as an example, if an employer terminated an employee’s position publicly, via Facebook Wall message. Would this be bad faith?  Previously, the answer was probably, yes.  Now, in light of Keays, the employee must prove they have actually suffered damages.

Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer specializing in the law of wrongful and constructive dismissal. He can be reached at [email protected].