Workplace Free Expression

The Issue

Social media has radically transformed the ability of individuals to transmit and publish their thoughts and opinions. One consequence has been to blur the boundary between employees’ public right to free expression and their private obligations as employees. In Canada, as elsewhere, employees are increasingly being disciplined or dismissed for engaging in social media-based activities outside of the workplace. This raises important questions about the extent to which personal activity outside of work is becoming subject to employer control.

Why It Matters

The use of social media in the workplace and outside of work raises many ethical, legal, and union-related questions about the balance between legitimate and illegitimate employer restrictions on employee speech. Social media platforms offer myriad opportunities for amplifying individual expression, some of which may clearly be contrary to employers’ interests. As a result, there is ambiguity about the free expressive rights of employees to share publicly their experiences at work without fear of reprisal.  This is an important public policy, labour relations, and human rights issue.

Our Work

The Centre for Free Expression is collaborating with Professor Charles Smith and Daniel J. Paré on their research into workplace free expression. Priorities are examining how employment law is dealing with workplace expression in the context of social media, and how arbitrators are reconciling employees' free expression rights with their contractual obligation to avoid harming their employers' public reputation. Click here for the searchable, online database of legal decisions regarding freedom of expression at work. 



Watch What You Say! The whole world is becoming your workplace

Charles Smith in conversation with Daniel J. Paré


Pressured To Be Silent: Workers, COVID & the Cost for Society

Panelists: Kit Andres, Gagandeep Kaur, Deena Ladd

Moderator: Myer Siemiatycki


CFE Virtual Forum Series: Is It Time to Re-examine Limits on Workplace Free Expression?

Constitutional protection for free expression does not extend to the workplace. To the contrary, most employees face many restrictions on their free expression, which only seem to be expanding in the era of social media.