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Oil Sands Blogger Fired for Safety Concerns

Daniel Lublin | Oct 25, 2010

The Vancouver Sun reported that Mike Thomas was fired from his position as an electrical apprentice after posting two blog entries that detailed his health concerns in two mining camps in Alberta. 

The tone of Thomas, adhdcanuck’s blog, is one of reserved conviction – a tone that he says would be much harsher, were he “permitted”.  The two entries written described health concerns such as the sanitary condition of washrooms, and the limited food selection that left many nutrients to be desired.  Thomas catalogued his complaints through several pictures and videos of the facilities.

Two days following his October 4th posting, he was terminated over the phone by the contractor he worked for upon the behest of Suncor management.  Like many other companies, Suncor cited policy that prohibited work site photos to protect trade secrets; policy that Thomas claims is a smokescreen to mask unsanitary conditions.   Thomas’s union is pursuing his claim of wrongful dismissal, while he continues to blog and gain support.

When employees complain about working conditions to no avail, they often use social media websites as a sounding board, either for personal release, or as a political podium.  Whether acting in haste, or with tactical precision, employees should be aware of the danger they face. 

It is common for an employee to blog or tweet about a horrible day at work.  What Thomas did was completely different – he posted his company’s name with picture and video as a call to arms, hoping to mount a resistance.  This need not be an issue of free speech, but of common sense.  If you publicly insult your employer, you should expect repercussions.  Employees should be careful what they post, and know that whether it seems fair or not, employers are not hesitating to terminate for blogging.  That being said, employers should still consider lesser punishment than immediate dismissal.  It is a good idea to come up with fair procedures that address defamatory blogging sooner, rather than later.