For those of us who participate in electronic social media – and that number is LARGE – I want to draw your attention to a disturbing trend across this great country of ours. While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects free speech in Canada, it does not protect employees who speak negatively about their employers or co-workers in forums that promote the spreading of personal information.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and other such social media outlets offer us the chance to share our every thought and opinion on everything and anything. Many of us take great pleasure in sharing pictures of ourselves and our loved ones enjoying life to the fullest. Some of us go so far to use these venues to offer up advice to humanity or comment on the actions of others in critical or unflattering ways. For some reason, people feel that expressing one’s frustrations through social media offers them a safe venting forum. Not so!
Myth number 1: Anything I say on Facebook is protected speech and cannot attract discipline from my employer. WRONG! Anything that is posted on a social media site that may be perceived as critical of, or that may be considered disrespectful towards one’s employer can form the basis for discipline.
Myth number 2: I only engage my friends and family on social media and so it is a safe place to vent my frustrations about my employer/my work. WRONG! All it takes is one of your friends or family to have a setting on their own social media connection to allow access to others on their own contact lists.
Myth number 3: What I do on my breaks at work is my business. WRONG AGAIN! That is if you are using Facebook or email at your worksite, either on a worksite computer or even your own smart phone. One of the biggest no no’s is taking pictures at your worksite of anything remotely connected to your worksite or colleagues/patients. This may attract discipline for breach of confidentiality and is also a reportable breach of the nurse’s code of ethics which may attract investigations through CRNPEI. If you use Facebook on a worksite computer, your activity may be monitored AND if any of the links to sites, videos or other peoples posts are in any way considered “inappropriate”, you may be called to task for using the employer’s property for purposes that are improper or unsuitable.
Myth number 4: My work email is not monitored and I can use it for personal use. WRONG WRONG WRONG! Your work email is the property of your employer and was given to you for work purposes. Using it for anything but work has the potential to attract discipline, especially if the emails are of a personal nature and occur during work hours or have content that may be viewed by the employer as inappropriate or critical of their organization or policies. Please be aware that your work emails can and are being monitored. In some extreme cases of overuse, personal emails/texts that occurred during work hours have been viewed as “time theft”.
Myth number 5: I wasn’t the first person to “post” “tweet” or “email” a message, I only “liked”, “re-tweeted” or “forwarded” the message and so I am not at fault. Unfortunately – this is also WRONG. If you are caught up in a communication that is deemed disciplinable by the employer, the point in time when you joined in on the communication will not excuse the fact that you participated in the communication and may also attract discipline.
While the pros and cons of social media and technology will continue to be debated, it is clear that it’s here to stay. Knowing the dos and don’t in relation to its use and your employment will go a long way to helping you protect yourself against unwanted criticism or discipline from your employer.
For more information, please consult the Health PEI Social Media policy.