Cumulative cause.1.

Author:Bowal, Peter


The workplace is a challenging setting to manage. One must be proficient at dealing with a range of people with all kinds of personalities, backgrounds and styles. The manager in small enterprises often also serves as the Human Resources and Legal Departments. One is expected to know employment and labour law and manage people in precise measure according to the law. Review of those management decisions may come in the form of a lawsuit years later where all the splendid details are intricately laid out with adversarial obsession before the whole world.

Invariably, the small business manager will not have all the facts, perspectives and arguments--not to mention the legal principles, precedents and distinctions--that will be placed before the judge, who is also a latecomer and stranger to the scene that must be managed today. The well laid out ordering, after the fact, of what decisions should have been made are neither easy to predict nor do they readily reflect all workplace realities.

A recent case from British Columbia considered whether the senior communications manager for a sporting organization went too far in muddling her professional and personal commentary on social media. Her personal style and criticisms of her employer attracted most of the attention.

This is the first installment of a two-part article that examines the legal concept of cumulative cause. This part sets out the facts and issues. The last part, in the next issue, will describe the outcome and enumerate some lessons to be applied from the case.

Senior Communications Manager Tests Limits of Communications

Ms. Paula Kim ("Kim"), with a broadcasting journalism degree from Ryerson University, found her dream job working in the field of sports. In her early 30s, she was earning $77,000 per year and was travelling the world. She worked for the International Triathlon Union ("ITU"), the international governing body for the triathlon sports that schedules international triathlons, sets the competition rules and prize money, and certifies officials.

But Kim also was active on her Facebook and Twitter accounts and her blog. There her inner voice was readily expressed to the world. After the ITU world championships ended, she wrote: "2012 ITU season...DONE. now leave me alone until 2013!!" Some interpreted that she was fed up with her job or felt harassed in it.

She also posted "surprisingly fun congress after-party last night. Probly [sic] only time I'll see...

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