Workers fired over Internet postings

LAURA CZEKAJ, OTTAWA SUN

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

Several Farm Boy employees in Ottawa have been fired over the past week after the company learned of their postings on a popular Internet networking website.

The employees were dismissed from Farm Boy locations across the city after posting comments in the "I Got Farm Boy'd" group on the Facebook website.

The group has 186 members and is described as "for current and past employees of Farmboy Inc. to share experiences, discuss topics and even have a place to express their opinion as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Facebook is also home to groups called "Farm Boy's Farm Hands" and "I Have Been Terminated From Farm Boy." Both these groups feature the corporate logo. Members of all the groups frequently use their full names.

On Friday, Devon Bourgeois was called into his store manger's office at the Kanata Farm Boy and shown copies of posts he had written Nov. 13.

"I particularly was confronted for, and terminated for, admission of theft, which, based on the posts I had written, was under a hypothetical topic known as 'Only at Farm Boy' had these situations occurred," he said.

NOT A 'CONFESSION'

"My post was taken to be literal and as a confession, which it never was."

During more than two years with the company, Bourgeois was promoted to supervisor and given three raises.

"I was not a bad employee, I did not break rules," he said. "That's why I didn't understand why I was terminated so quickly."

James Wood, another former Farm Boy employee, e-mailed the Sun, saying he was fired over his participation on the website.

Bourgeois argued the posts were not accessible to the general public and would not pop up during a general search.

The company declined to comment yesterday, citing privacy concerns. It would confirm neither how many people had been fired nor whether it had a pre-existing policy regarding staff posts.

However, marketing director Nick Farinaccio said the incident has forced the company to look at policies.

University of Ottawa assistant professor Karen Eltis, an expert in Internet law, said employers are entitled to terminate workers with just cause, but employees are also entitled to free expression. The stickiness of the situation comes into play when employees choose the publicly accessible Internet as their forum.


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