On Thursday, CTV brought me in to be interviewed on-air, live, for Paula Todd’s "The Verdict", which was my first television appearance, speaking as a lawyer. The topic was obviously the recent Facebook.com maelstrom, which I have written about in the Toronto Star and Metro News, here and here, respectively.
I’ve been told by friends and colleagues that I was looking at the camera too much and may have even appeared "arrogant" (which, doesn’t surprise me) but that the content of my argument was well-though out and evocative. Joining me was Mr. Gary Gannage, who is the President of the union of employees at Queen’s Park in Toronto, where the Ontario Government made news waves by banning Facebook at work, last week. See the Toronto Star’s article Facebook Banned for Ontario Staffers.
Interestingly, Mr. Gannage argued that the Provincial Government’s statements following its decision to ban Facebook, will perpetuate the stereotype that civil servants are wasting time at work. I agreed with Gannage on this point, as it probably has and will continue to affect the image of the staffers. My view, expressed on The Verdict was that Facebook will seldom be used for exclusively business purposes, while at work and that given the potential legal issues involved, the Government’s ban was entirely appropriate and withing their prerogative to do so.
I was actually hoping that I would be asked whether or not I was a Facebook user myself (as I am). My response would have been that, being a user, I’m intimately aware of the potential for wasting time at work, as I’ve done so on many occasions.
In my employment law practice, I expect the Facebook legal dilemma to continue to grow as more companies begin to recognize the potential legal problems involved, and ban access to the site for their employees. I eagerly await the first wrongful dismissal case involving the issue as it will surely make media headlines.
Recently, I was consulted by an employee who was terminated for cause after posting a video of himself at work on YouTube, the popular video sharing website, owned by Google. My advice was that cause, although very difficult to demonstrate and prove, may have been appropriate in this case, given the employee appeared in company uniform, within the store, and outside of the store. In my view, the potential damage to the Company’s reputation, probably meant that the punishment fit the crime. Usually, while issues of credibility and factual he said she said, play a starring role in any cause based allegations, as the employer will have to prove the conduct complained of actually occurred, in this case, I was able to contemplate the fact that the judge would be asked to download the YouTube video onto his or her own computer, thus demonstrating part of the dilemma faced by employers and employees.