Free Speech and Privacy at Work

When can an employee’s off-duty web postings or other activities be reasonably monitored and controlled by an employer in order to protect the business? This has been a recurring question since the rise of the public internet and especially of social media. This article does a nice job of reviewing the case law and dissecting the issues of privacy, free speech, and employer loyalty with regard to online postings, and notes that:

It is fair to say that although technology has changed the playing field, the principles with respect to off-duty conduct in Canada have not changed. As long as employees must remain subordinate and loyal to their employer, there are limits to what they can express, even on their own devices and even if they are off-duty.

While an employer can never completely control the online behaviour of its employees, it can manage the delicate balance between protecting the business and respecting the rights of employees to privacy and free speech by putting in place “a well-drafted and well-communicated policy which clearly identifies acceptable workplace practices and use of company equipment as well as personal equipment, both at work and off work.”

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