Home|Webinars| Keep Your Opinions to Yourself!

Keep Your Opinions to Yourself! Determining the limits of employee free speech inside and outside the workplace

Tuesday, July 19, 2022, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm ET

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Sean McGee

Union Counsel
Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP
Noella Martin

Employer Counsel
Wickwire Holm


Rebecca Kantwerg

Union Counsel
Victory Square Law Office
Jena Montgomery

Counsel, Treasury Board Secretariat Legal Services
Department of Justice Government of Canada


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark divisions within the workplace and outside of it, as two years of pent-up frustration have driven employees and others into polarized camps on an array of highly charged issues: public health restrictions, vaccination, the Freedom Convoy, and others. Add to this the lingering effects of "cancel culture" and the #MeToo movement, and debates have the potential to spill out into the open, not only on social media, but also directly, in confrontations among employees and between employees and managers. Unions have also found themselves having to take sides, potentially undercutting bargaining unit solidarity and creating challenges for their role as representatives. In this context, what are the limits of employee free speech, both inside and outside of the workplace? Which types of conversations are acceptable, and which should be prohibited? Leading experts will address these questions and more, including the following:

  • Where is the line to be drawn between safeguarding employee free speech and ensuring a work environment free from harassment and unacceptable comments and communications? Do employees have the right to express their views on potentially controversial or political subjects at work?
  • Should political discussions be banned at work? If so, what constitutes a political discussion? For example, are discussions about climate change or ethnic diversity political?
  • Are employees free to criticize their employers or employer policies — either at work or outside of it? Do whistleblowing protections apply to employees criticizing employer actions or policies that are legal but politically unpopular or socially unacceptable?
  • Are employers able to discipline employees for private, off-duty statements that come to their attention? How close of a connection is required between an employee's off-duty conduct and an employer's legitimate interests in order to establish just cause for discipline?
  • Given public reactions to individuals expressing controversial views, is it now easier than ever to justify the discipline or discharge of an employee who expresses unpopular views off duty? What if the employee’s conduct raises questions about their behaviour in the workplace?
  • How, if at all, should Charter rights or values, such as respect for freedom of expression, influence arbitrators' analysis of discipline imposed on employees because of off-duty statements?
  • What is the extent of a union's duty to represent members who face work-related consequences because of their unpopular beliefs or opinions? For example, what happens if an employee is fired due to personal disagreement with an employer's vaccine mandate? What about in the case of an employee dismissed for off-duty comments commonly viewed as sexist, racist, or homophobic?


Additional Information

Valuable, up-to-date materials and case summaries will be available for downloading from our website. Each webinar is accompanied by a PDF of concise summaries of the cases discussed.

Live webinar, video, and MP3 bundle – $430
Live webinar – $265
Video and MP3 – $265
(Registrations must be paid in advance of the webinar)
Please contact us by email, or by phone at (416) 977-6618, for discount pricing for additional participants and group orders.

Webinar video and MP3 files are available for $265. Those who have purchased the live webinar may purchase the corresponding downloadable video and MP3 file for the discounted price of $165.

The video recording, MP3 file, and materials are available for download and viewing one business day after the live webinar. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to access and download the video recording, MP3 file, and materials by visiting My Account and selecting Order History. For purchases for upcoming webinars, once the video recording and MP3 file and materials are available, registrants will receive an update e-mail informing them that the links are now ready.

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