Social media ruling puts pressure on employers

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Inappropriate social media posts often land employees in hot water – but what happens when workers are actually the subject of abusive online activity? One recent ruling says employers have a responsibility to step in.

The precedent-setting case was brought by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents TTC workers. The union was attempting to shut down the service’s Twitter account which had received a number of hateful tweets directed at particular employees.

"It crossed so many lines," union executive Rocco Signorile told CBC News. "There were death threats."

Ontario arbitrator Robert Howe disagreed that the account should be closed – noting that it provides a valuable service to the public – but did say the Toronto Transit Commission had failed to protect its workers from harassment.

Reassuringly, Howe recommended a fairly straight-forward solution – he advised the TTC ask users to delete any offensive tweets immediately and warn them that, should the fail to do so, they will be blocked.

Finally, he suggested the TTC contact Twitter to request an offensive tweet be deleted if a user fails to remove it.

While laws have been steadily evolving to address the increasing concern of online abuse, this appears to be the first case where an employer is held responsible for posts directed at employees.

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