The Canadian Media Guild, CBC/Radio Canada branch is extremely pleased an arbitrator has ruled in favour of our member who was unjustly fired from his temporary job in Winnipeg, and in doing so has upheld the reasonable expectation of personal privacy for all employees.
In his decision, Arbitrator Lorne Slotnick ordered CBC to reinstate the member to his temporary position, and to compensate him for the breach of his privacy.
Ahmar Khan was fired in December 2019, following a series of events originating from tweets he posted condemning what he considered to be racist remarks by a prominent hockey commentator.
CBC management used personal messages taken from Khan’s messaging and social media accounts to learn Khan, a racialized employee, was deeply upset, and had disclosed to outside media outlets that CBC applied its Journalistic Standards and Practices to require him to take down his tweets about the racist hockey commentator.
Khan was immediately fired and stripped of his ability to find work at any other CBC location. After filing a grievance, our union spent the best part of a year trying to reach a settlement, urging the CBC to reinstate Khan.
In referencing one of the messages discovered in Khan’s private social media accounts, Arbitrator Slotnick emphasized that “violating an employer policy may be grounds for discipline, expressing disagreement with a policy is not”.
Slotnick added: “I agree with the union that if employees could lose their jobs for privately criticizing their bosses – even if in crude terms – this country would be facing a severe labour shortage.”
The arbitrator also found that “[Khan’s] chosen method of publicizing an internal CBC decision ordering him to take down a tweet was, in my view, like other public comment from CBC employees, not intended to harm the CBC or its reputation, nor is there any evidence that it did so.” Slotnick concluded that “The mere fact that the CBC has asserted that Mr. Khan has caused potential or actual reputational damage does not make it so.”
In trying to settle this grievance, it must be noted CMG has always focused on how management treated Khan, and how it dealt with a situation of a racialized temporary employee. Management failed to respect Khan’s reasonable expectation of privacy which is a clear violation under our collective agreement.
Our collective agreement clearly states:
“Employees have the right to work in an environment that respects their personal privacy and is free from surveillance, either overt or covert, subject to legitimate security needs.”
In this case, ruled Slotnick, there was no legitimate security need to warrant the breach of Khan’s privacy.
CBC has told CMG that it is reviewing the ruling, and has not yet determined if it will seek a judicial review.
President, CBC/Radio-Canada Branch, Canadian Media Guild