Following Vancouver’s loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, Canucks fans took to the streets. Cars were overturned and set ablaze, store fronts were smashed and looted, and those who didn’t take part watched wide-eyed in disbelief.
An Acura car dealership employee was fired after being identified as a looter via Youtube – but not before the dealership received a flood of emails from customers threatening a boycott because of Acura’s “support for vandals and looters”.
The National Post website has a collection of high quality photos posted that have made identification of rioters an easy task.  So what do you do as an employer when you spot an employee looting or dancing on top of a police car?
It’s important to understand that these circumstances create a Catch-22:

  1. If employers knowingly keep an employee that has been identified, they potentially face boycotts;
  2. If they appease the public by terminating employment, they potentially face lawsuits for wrongful dismissal.

Because of the time-sensitive nature of these decisions, it can be difficult to gauge the best course of action.  Before dismissing employees for suspicious behavior outside of the workplace, consider the following:

  • Avoid relying solely on photographic evidence – misconstruing an employee as having been involved could end in a costly lawsuit;
  • Have a conversation with the employee before drawing any conclusions;
  • Evaluate the nature of the supposed crime.  For example, the decision to fire a looter might be made easier if their role in the organization is one that necessitates trust, i.e. a treasurer or inventory manager.

The importance of how employees conduct themselves outside of the workplace is an area that continues to develop as the use of social media becomes more prevalent.  Rather than risk potential lawsuits, contact an employment lawyer to find out if your gut reaction can be cause for dismissal.