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Can posting inappropriate content on social media outlets become serious enough to cost you your job–even if it’s done after hours and on your own home computer?

The answer is a resounding “yes!”

Think Before You Post

In the recent case of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) v. Algoma Tubes, Inc., a grievor complained to their employer about a co-worker who they claimed violated the company’s sexual harassment policy during a shift. A team leader spoke with the accused worker, who stated that the grievor likewise was not following proper procedures. Both were instructed to finish their shifts and speak with another manager about the incident the next day.

But before that could happen, the grievor decided to take the dispute to Facebook, posting disparaging comments about the co-worker. Though they did not mention a name, they did make reference to a distinctive physical characteristic. The co-worker responded with a highly suggestive remark, and the dialogue quickly escalated – for all their Facebook friends to see and share.

After the co-worker complained to management the following day, the grievor took down the posts and apologized to company leadership. They asked to apologize to the grievor, but their request was denied because the co-worker was too upset to talk. The grievor was sent home pending an investigation and ultimately terminated for breach of collective agreement and violation of the employer’s workplace violence and harassment policy. The responding employee was given a 10-day suspension.

The USW argued that there were a number of mitigating factors that should have weighed in favor of lessening the grievor’s penalty, but the presiding arbitrator rejected all of them. This serves as an important reminder that in today’s connected online society, inappropriate off-duty conduct can lead to discipline, including possible discharge.

Social Media Dos and Don’ts

Defining and upholding your personal brand identity online is critical. Remember, your friends are on Facebook – and even there, privacy needs to be carefully controlled. And your current, past and potential employers and co-workers are everywhere on the Web.

  1. Google your name. Google is known as the “new resume.” Anyone who wants to know more about you or receives your resume or job application, is likely to Google you. So it’s best to know what’s out there regarding you and to take any necessary corrective actions.
  2. Lock down your personal Facebook page and Twitter account. Take the “Mom test.” Would you be comfortable with your mother – or an employer – seeing your content? If not, then take it down, or at least lock it down or restrict it.
  3. Set up a LinkedIn account. This is the professional equivalent of Facebook. Complete your profile including a professional headshot photo, a tagline defining your career focus, and a summary of your best professional qualifications.
  4. If necessary, step away from your smartphone. Or laptop or desktop or mobile device. It’s not unlike a DWI charge. Of course, you may not cause physical harm as a result of what you post, but the repercussions could be permanently damaging. Once you make the mistake, you can’t take it back. Creativity while under the influence of alcohol will not look so great the following morning.

For additional tips on building your personal brand image as you achieve your short and long-term career plans, contact the professional career coaches at Employment Professionals Canada today. We look forward to hearing from you!


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