Human Rights Office

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Human Rights Office

Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113 v. Toronto Transit Commission, 2016 Ontario 

Summary:

After numerous complaints from Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees regarding abusive tweets on the company’s twitter account (@TTChelps), the union filed a policy grievance asking to have the twitter account shut down. The TTC Twitter account @TTChelps was first opened in 2009. The intention behind the Twitter account was to provide TTC users with service updates and information. As part of the Twitter account, TTC employees would respond to customers’ tweets throughout the day. The protocol around responding to customer tweets was to be courteous, informative and empathetic when appropriate. After being alerted by TTC staff, as to the abusive behaviour occurring on the Twitter account, the union began monitoring the content of tweets being directed to @TTChelps. The union classified the problematic tweets into nine different categories:

1. Derogatory Language

2. Violence/Threats

3. Pictures

4. Badge Numbers

5. Breaks

6. Encouraging Negative Views/False Information

7. Public Discipline

8. Requests for More Information

9. Customer Complaints

In relation to all of these categories, the union submitted that the responses to customers’ tweets were inappropriate and made it appear that the employer was siding with the customer prior to any sort of process. Below are some examples of customers’ tweets and the TTC’s response:

2 bus rides two completely different experiences. Driver 1 #dick Driver 2 #goodhuman #ttc @TTChelps #toronto

It generated the following response from @TTChelps:

You can call us at 416-393-3030 or go to ow.ly/AKsGz to report your experiences (para 26)

 

YOU NEED TO TEACH YOUR EMPLOYEES SOME MAN-NERS AND RESPECT! I SWEAR I'LL RAISE THE ASSAULT RATE MYSELF

It generated the following response from @TTChelps:

I understand your frustrated however TTC does not tolerate threats against our employees Please call if you have a complaint

 

Based on evidence of tweets within all of the categories above, the union claimed that the employer was failing to provide a workplace that was safe and free from harassment. As part of this claim the union asked for a number of remedies (see para 97) including the shutting down of the @TTChelps Twitter account. In this case, it was decided that the TTC failed to protect its employees from harassment on its company’s Twitter account (@TTChelps) but the arbitrator did not order for the account to be shut down. There were instead recommendations made surrounding the type of response/actions that should be taken as a result of an abusive or harassing tweet as well as the order that a social media guideline for responses be developed. 

Question to be Determined:

            1. Did the employer (the Toronto Transit Commission) fail to protect its employees from harassment on its company’s Twitter account (@TTChelps) contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the collective agreement?

Findings:

            1. Did the employer (the Toronto Transit Commission) fail to protect its employees from harassment on it company’s Twitter account (@TTChelps) contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the collective agreement?

YES

Reasoning:

In this case the arbitrator weighed the pros and cons of the TTC’s social media presence  on Twitter @TTChelps. Ultimately it was decided that the TTC’s presence on social media was important but that changes needed to be made in order to ensure that     employees were not subject to harassment in the workplace. Examples of the TTC’s failure to provide employees with an environment that is safe and free from harassment included the following:

It is clear from the totality of the evidence that the TTC has failed to take all reasonable and practical measures to protect bargaining unit employees from that type of harassment by members of the community, as required by the HRC, the Agreement, and the Workplace Harassment Policy. The evidence discloses many inadequate responses by @TTChelps to offensive tweets of that type, such as: (1) ignoring the offensive language and merely advising the tweeter "You can call us at 416-393-3030 or go to ow.ly/AKsGz to report your experiences"; (2) responding by stating "We understand your concerns however please refrain from personal attacks against employ-ees", but then going on to provide information on how to file a complaint; (3)responding "Can you please refrain from using vulgarity and elaborate on what happened?"; or (4) responding by merely stating that the TTC does not condone abusive, profane, derogatory or offensive comments (para 133).

Some of the recommendations for changes are included below:

To deter people from sending such tweets, @TTChelps should not only indicate that the TTC does not condone abusive, profane, derogatory or offensive comments, but should go on to request the tweeters to immediately delete the offensive tweets and to advise them that if they do not do so they will be blocked. If that response does not result in an offensive tweet being deleted forthwith, @TTChelps should proceed to block the tweeter. It may also be appropriate to seek the assistance of Twitter in having offensive tweets deleted. If Twitter is unwilling to provide such assistance, this may be a relevant factor for consideration in determining whether the TTC should continue to be permitted to use @TTChelps (para 133).

@TTChelps should not only indicate that the TTC does not condone the posting of photographs of TTC employees on Twitter but should go on to request the offending tweeters to immediately delete the posted photographs and to advise them that if they do not do so they will be blocked. If that response does not result in the photograph being deleted forthwith, @TTChelps should proceed to block the tweeter (para 136).

Developing templated responses mutually acceptable to the Employer and the Union might well be of assistance to the senior service representatives who respond to tweets received by @TTChelps, and beneficial in ensuring that the responses they provide are        not violative of the TTC's collective agreement or statutory obligations. It might also be beneficial for the parties to develop mutually acceptable guidelines regarding when information of that type should be provided, and when tweeters should simply be advised that if they wish to file a complaint they must contact the TTC by telephone or via the TTC website (para 146).