Tonight I took place on a panel discussion in Calgary on the issue of social media challenges in Calgary. The dinner event was hosted by the Southern Alberta chapter of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association (CIRA), and organized by Dr. Kelly Williams-Whitt, who is a professor of Labour Relations at the University of Lethbridge (Calgary Campus) and serves in a leadership role with CIRA.
My fellow panelists were:
- Andy Robertson, Partner, Macleod Dixon LLP
- Tom Hesse, United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) 401
- John Moreau, Arbitrator
Dr. Whitt presented us with three Canadian labour cases including:
- A female employed in the health care sector who posted photos of patients without their permission on her blog, discussing their conditions and making disparaging remarks about her fellow employees, her workplace and her bosses. (She was later dismissed from her job.)
- A male employee with documented mental health issues who blogged about his Neo-Nazi beliefs, his hatred of certain racial groups, the desecration of animal remains that he took part in, the anti-depressants he was on and other assorted topics. He mentioned the name of his employer in his blog. (He was suspended from work and then reinstated.)
- A male employee who circulated pornography to his co-workers and was later found to have over 3000 pornographic images and some porn videos in his work e-mail account. (He was suspended from work and then reinstated).
Each panelist gave commentary on the cases, based on their respective experience. My point of view was mainly “pro” social media. My main arguments were:
- Most companies do not train their employees adequately on how to use social media effectively and responsibly.
- Organizations need to make their expectations about online behaviour very clear to employees.
- Everyone who engages in social media leaves a “digital footprint”. Employees and employers need to be aware of what this is and what it can mean over the long term.
- Digital citizenship is in an important skills to learn in the 21st century.
- Online reputation management is becoming more important for both employees and employers.
Here’s a clip of my commentary:
It was a lively and invigorating discussion that touched on topics such as personal freedoms, organizational control, common sense and personal responsibility. My fellow panelists were articulate, well-informed and thoughtful in their responses. Being neither a lawyer, nor a union voice, I was honoured to take part in the discussion.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.