An Ontario college found itself in the centre of a social media storm this week after one professor shared his shocking homophobic views on Facebook.
Rick Coupland shared a link to a story about the Floridian city of St. Petersburg, where officials raised a rainbow flag for the local Pride festival.
The St. Lawrence College business professor then added the abhorrently cruel comment; “It's the queers they should be hanging, not the flag ...."
An understandably offended ex-student saves the post in a screenshot before making a formal complaint to the school.
Coupland later posted on the social media site that he had been summoned into work and asked users to “pray for me and my job.”
Kelly Wiley, SLC's director of marketing and communications, called the comment “deeply concerning” and said the school has multiple policies in place that apply to the conduct of employees.
“This includes the fact that we adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code,” she told Metro News. “We also have harassment policies, a policy around outside activities of college employees, and our collective agreement."
Soon after the incident, the college confirmed Coupland was no longer employed with the organization – adding that the response on social media had played a part in the decision.
"As a result of complaints about comments made on social media that were brought forward to the College, this matter was investigated internally. Mr. Coupland is no longer an employee at St. Lawrence College," the school tweeted.
The incident is yet another example of employees behaving badly on social media, something which labour and employment lawyer Heather Hettiarachchi says has become has become increasingly common.
“With the increased use of social media, we’re seeing more inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour on the part of the employee,” she said. “It may not always lead to firing but often the employer does have to take action.”
Hettiarachchi told HRM that employers would be well advised to remind workers of the possible repercussions related to social media posts.
“Many employers do have rules and policies in place but just talking to employees and making them understand the seriousness of inappropriate social media use and the impact it can have is important,” she explains.
“Warn employees to be mindful of what they post and what they say,” she adds. “Remind them that how they behave and communicate outside of the office can significantly affect the employer’s public image and reputation.”
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