After Roseanne Barr made provocative comments about a former senior advisor to former President Obama on Twitter two weeks ago, her show, which had just been renewed for a second season by ABC, was swiftly cancelled.
The tweet that cost her not only her job on Roseanne, but also the jobs of the entire cast and crew, said of Valerie Jarrett, who identifies as African-American, and former aide to Obama, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj.”
After ABC cancelled her show, Barr deleted the tweet and apologized for her conduct. ABC upheld their decision arguing that Barr’s tweet was, “repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”
Most corporations, especially those as large and public as ABC, have a code of conduct in place that would be part of an employee agreement, and Barr’s comments here would likely be in breach of such a policy.
However, even in the absence of an existing code of conduct, in Ontario an employer is justified in firing a worker for off-duty behaviour for cause, if the employer can prove that said behaviour is damaging to the corporation’s reputation.
Employees need to be aware that their conduct both in and out of work can affect their employment. Before posting online, keep in mind that anything you say may be seen by present and prospective employers. At the same time, employers should be aware that not every “post” or “tweet” may justify dismissal for cause and less draconian measures, such as progressive discipline or warnings, may be used first before summarily dismissing an employee from their job. As always, the analysis is case-specific and contextual.