The broadcaster acted improperly when they combed through the employee’s private messages for evidence of a leak, arbitrator rules
By Jonathan Goldsbie
January 16, 2021
In December 2019, the CBC fired reporter Ahmar Khan after learning he’d been Canadaland’s confidential source for a story. They discovered this after a colleague went through Khan’s personal social media accounts — that he’d left logged in on a shared computer — and turned over evidence to a manager, who then went through the accounts herself.
Khan’s union, the Canadian Media Guild, grieved the dismissal, and this week an arbitrator ruled the CBC acted improperly in firing him, ordering the public broadcaster to offer him reinstatement for the four remaining months of his contract, or, should Khan decline that, to simply pay him out the four months’ salary.
The employer’s stated grounds for termination, wrote arbitrator Lorne Slotnick, were “far overshadowed by the breach of his privacy that enabled the employer to discover those activities.” He also concluded that Khan is entitled to damages for the breach, in an amount to be determined.
The entire ruling is worth reading, navigating such tricky subjects as objectivity in journalism, systemic racism at the CBC, and whether it ought to be a fireable offence to refer to one’s boss (in private conversation with a third party) as an “asshole.” Slotnick himself was formerly a reporter, covering labour for the Globe in the 1980s.
But let us summarize the highlights.
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