Employees behaving badly

Ah, nothing like a few pints (well, maybe more than few) and a Soccer Match to bring out the hooligan in some people: you all know what I’m writing about. I’m writing about the FHRITP comment (Google if you must, but beware it’s NSFW – Google that before the first one) that lead to the public termination of the Hydro One Employee.

When this became news last week, everyone was quick to ask everyone’s opinion: was the termination an overreaction?

I remained firmly on the fence, well sort of. I will admit I did feel the hooligan got his just deserts, but the Lawyer part of me would be very reluctant to encourage an employer client to follow suit.

The caveat to my Lawyer side is this: if the employer has a signed employment contract that notes the employee can be disciplined for any public behaviour that reflects badly on the employer, then go ahead and terminate for this behaviour.

However, in the absence of a signed employment agreement to that effect, the employer may find themselves on the hook for damages equal to one month per year worked and possibly more if they terminate the employee in such a public manner. If that happens all the “good PR” that is generated will probably not be worth the amount of money that is shelled out to the hooligan.

Another problem for an employer without a “morals clause” is if the hooligan works with women. In that case, the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act duty to provide a safe work environment will kick in and the employee will have to be counseled and supervised to ensure they are not creating an unsafe work environment. In a small business, this may create a very big problem and that may justify termination, but never, in a public way.

Ultimately, drunken hooligans need to stop yelling FHRITP. I suppose if this public termination stops it, then it is worth the risk that Hydro One took with the public termination. Of course, this might just end up being another line on my Hydro Bill and then I’m going to be smoking mad, can you imagine seeing:

Fee paid to Hooligan for terminating him due to yelling FHRITP on City TV $ 40.00.

I’ll be yelling something into a TV camera if I see that !

Inga B. Andriessen JD