Saskatoon school custodian could be fired for 'freedom rally' participation: employment lawyer
SASKATOON -- A school custodian’s participation in rallies that appeared to violate the current COVID-19 public health order could lead to discipline, or even termination, according to an employment lawyer.
Stuart Rudner, an employment lawyer of nearly 20 years, says Canada’s freedom of speech law often gets misinterpreted.
“Freedom of speech guarantees that you won’t be criminally prosecuted for something you say. It doesn’t guarantee your job,” Rudner told CTV News, referencing situations where an employer fires an employee over social media misconduct.
Hugh Cairns V.C. School evening custodian Brent Wintringham was identified in a video during a Saskatoon gathering on Saturday, which took aim at COVID-related public health measures through a children’s "freedom rally.”
Wintringham was also photographed at a Prince Albert rally last week, where health officials said an infected person was present, and urged everyone to self-isolate.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people under the current public health order.
Some parents of students at the school are calling for Wintringham's termination.
According to Rudner, an employee’s behaviour outside of work impacts the reputation of the organization, or threatens the safety of the workplace, an employer has the right to take action.
"But if they have reason to believe that somebody is doing something that could have an impact on the health and safety in the workplace, then they have an obligation. It's not just an option, but an obligation to take action.”
CTV News reached out to the school to see if Wintringham had been in the building while he was supposed to be isolating.
Saskatoon Public Schools said details about a specific employee can’t be released.
“However, if the school division is aware of a student or staff member being ordered to self-isolate, the individual is prohibited from entering the school,” the principal of Hugh Cairns V.C. said in a letter to parents.
There have been several cases in Canada where employers have terminated an employee for their participation in “freedom rallies.”
In December, the Vancouver Canucks severed ties with its long-time anthem singer, after he planned to sing at an anti-mask rally.
In January, a hospital in London, Ont. fired a nurse “with cause” for organizing an anti-lockdown rally.
“If you're doing something that has the potential to damage the reputation of your employer, that can lead to discipline and dismissal as well,” Rudner said.