Rallies and protests are nothing new; however, the starting of 2021 experienced some severe protests – Capitol Hill in the USA, anti-maskers protesting the lockdowns, anti-vaccine protests, and other courses to control the spread of Coronavirus. There’s, however, one key question that the Canadian employers and employees are asking, “Can attending a protest or a white supremacist rally be a cause for a sacking?”
The answer is “YES” – but with quite a few stipulations!
Freedom of speech doesn’t translate to freedom from workplace penalty. Canadians are provided with the right to state their ideologies, political preferences, or personal views, whether in public or privately. Even though their behaviour and outlooks may be completely legal, that doesn’t render them unaffected from workplace sacking or discipline.
Outside of unionized workers, an employer is well within its legal rights to discharge workers for almost any basis, or for completely no reason at all, provided that dismissal compensation is given. This is the beauty of Canadian firing law; paying dismissal makes almost any sacking decision justified.
Technically, there’s no dissimilarity between sacking a worker for the reason that he or she identifies with white supremacists and sacking that same worker due to restructuring. Neither employee has the right to challenge the grounds for termination. And if a dismissal package is given, there also should be no disparity in the amount required.
The more interesting question is whether dismissing a worker for attending a rally or a protest can be seen as a type of misbehaviour such that there’s just cause for firing without any severance at all. This is where the firing law gets complicated. Termination for any type of wrongdoing without pay is generally complex for employers to explain as they initially have to confirm that the penalty fits the alleged crime. But if the correct circumstances are met, it can and should be done.
If a worker is openly outed on social media for his or her participation at a white supremacist rally, it could be a reason for sacking.
Employers have a lawful interest in defending their reputation and brand, particularly online. As the mob mindset of social media is now more influential than ever before, a worker openly dishonoured online, even for confidentially held beliefs, can be indirectly causing damage to the reputation of an employer and putting the decisions of that employer in the spotlight. An employer who doesn’t take action in such a situation could face far more downbeat publicity than an employer that takes rapid steps to distance itself from that worker.
Human-rights set of rules nationwide declares that employers have an official duty to provide workspaces free from favouritism and harassment, which pulls out to make sure the actions of their staff don’t create or even potentially create a poisoned workplace. While holding certain views or expressing them confidentially isn’t unlawful, bringing them into the workplace for others to see and hear is a type of indirect unfairness that could result in a successful human-rights complaint against both the offending employee and his or her employer.
What conclusions can we draw about attending a rally or protest?
The workers are evidently permitted to hold personal views and opinions, even racist ones, without fear that their prejudices or ideas will follow them back to their desks. This is by itself isn’t a reason to fire for cause, not could it ever be. But once such views cause harm or potentially cause harm to the business interests of an employer, no worker should anticipate that any workplace law would protect them.
To better understand your privacy rights and discover the possibility of a claim during such untoward times, we encourage workers to seek legal advice. We at Scher Law are happy to provide insight and advice into your particular situation. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information regarding what Scher Law can do for you, feel free to give us a call at (416) 515-9686 today!