Heckler’s dismissal raises employment litigation questions


The dismissal of an employee because of his conduct during a Toronto soccer game is raising difficult questions for labour law experts.

Experts debate merits of dismissal of soccer fan for non-work conduct

The widely reported incident of a Toronto soccer fan who was fired from his job after heckling a journalist on-air has raised some important questions for both employers and employees to think about, according to Inside Halton. The man was filmed participating in an exchange with a television reporter, which included hurling vulgar insults at her. While the incident occurred outside of the workplace, the man who appeared in the video has been dismissed from his job after his identity was revealed on social media. While the company in question has garnered public praise for its quick reaction to the controversy,
labour law experts are more divided on the merits and potential legal actions that could result from the event.

Vulgar insults

The incident occurred at a recent Toronto FC match. During a television news reporter’s coverage of the game, a number of men disrupted her broadcast and yelled a number of vulgar remarks that were captured on tape. The videotape of the incident was widely shared both through traditional media and on social media.

When the identity of one of the men involved in the incident was revealed, his employer quickly announced that he had been fired. Because of public anger over the conduct of the men, the employer generally enjoyed a positive public reaction for dismissing the man so quickly after learning his identity.

Next steps

With the rise of social media, protecting a company’s brand is more important today than ever before. Nonetheless, dismissing an employee for behaviour that occurs outside of the workplace does entail risks for a company. Broadly speaking, a company has the right to dismiss an employee if that employee’s conduct – whether during or outside work hours – damages that company’s reputation. Nonetheless, a wrongful dismissal lawsuit could be on the horizon in this case, partly because the individual never presented himself as a representative of the company.

As the Hamilton Spectator also notes, the next steps for both the former employee and the company may depend on whether or not the individual was a unionized member and whether he is owed severance pay. If he was not unionized, then the company would have only to prove that they had just cause for dismissing him without providing severance pay. In any case, the story demonstrates the sometimes treacherous waters companies must navigate today when trying to balance a positive public image while respecting the legal rights of their employees.

Employment litigation

For both employees and employers, the world of labour law can be confusing and daunting at the best of times, as the above story shows. Anybody involved or likely to be involved in an employment dispute should contact an employment litigation lawyer today who can provide legal advice and dedication that will help further the client’s best interests.

Keywords: employment litigation, Toronto soccer, Vulgar insults, company’s reputation, treacherous.