Office Christmas Parties And Social Media: When The Friends Of My Friends … Are Not My Friends!

The first snowflakes have fallen. The stores are filled with Christmas decorations, and carols are playing on the radio ... All the signs are there - the office Christmas Party is fast approaching!

Despite the festive and casual nature of an office Christmas party, employers need to be on their guard, as many troublesome situations can arise at such an event.

And because you will be organizing a sensational evening for your employees, many of them will no doubt be posting comments about the highlights of the evening on social media ... replete with photographs! Despite the best of intentions, many such comments by employees can have negative effects that employers must counter swiftly.

Here then are some explanations about the legal consequences of errant social media postings, and some advice on how to avoid them.

The legal consequences of errant social media postings

Any inappropriate language or images posted on social media by one of your employees can easily cause harm to someone else. And when that someone else is your company or one of its officers or employees, you as an employer may have the right - or obligation - to intervene.

Regardless of the specific social media used, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other platform, the result will essentially be the same: the publication on any such platform of inappropriate language or images can infringe a variety of rights and duties. In the labour relations context, prominent examples are protection of one's reputation, the right to privacy, an employee's duty of loyalty, and the right to work in an environment free from psychological harassment.

Of course, your employees have the right to freedom of expression, which is protected by Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (the "Charter"), but that right is not absolute: its exercise is subject to the other fundamental rights mentioned above.


It is widely recognized that freedom of expression does not extend to defamation and its consequences. This principle applies unabated in a labour relations context. An employee cannot distribute or publish denigrating photographs of his or her employer, superiors or co-workers, including on social media.

In a decision rendered before the era of social media - but still highly relevant today - Quebec's Court of Appeal defined defamation as follows: [TRANSLATION] "a communication of spoken or written words that causes another person to lose self-esteem or consideration in...

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