FIRED over #FHITP

FHITP?  #ItsNeverOkay

A Hydro One assistant network engineer who earned over $100,000 a year is now losing his job over comments he made to a female reporter covering a Toronto FC soccer event. CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt confronted a group of young men after one of them said "F*** her in the p***", which has been a trend since last year. Hunt told a group of young men in the back who were also waiting to say the phrase it was "degrading to women," but they laughed her off.  

Although the Hydro One engineer was not the one who initiated the incident, he enthusiastically supported it. He told Hunt, "You're lucky there wasn't a f***ing vibrator in your ear.. it's f***ing amazing."

The other young men in the video have been banned for "at least a year" from future Toronto FC games. 

On social media, many said Hydro One's firing was completely justified, while a few thought it went too far.

"If I found out one of my employees was going to someone else's workplace and sexually harassing them, that would 100% be a firing offence," said @EvaHolland. 

"He was not representing the company, a person is not defined by their job," tweeted @hausleitnarr. "What he said may be disagreeable." 

Can an employee be fired for controversial comments to the media while off duty?

Several labour unions were reluctant to give comment, but Gary Engler from the Unifor Local 2000, the B.C. Media Union, said, "It really depends. On the one hand, we absolutely want to defend a harassment-free workplace. But on the other, we also we want to defend people from being wrongfully dismissed."  

Engler didn't speak specifically to the case of the Hydro One worker, but said it could depend on factors including the individual's position and job requirements, terms of contract, and the seriousness of the statements made. 
 
In certain cases, if the statement by an employee has caused "irreparable damage" to his or her relationship with the company, the employer may have grounds to terminate, Engler suggested. 
 
But he said employees should always be careful before yelling vulgar, offensive statements in front of a news camera. 
 
"Think before you talk when you know you're being recorded. And if you do say something wrong — well, if you're part of a union, at least you'll get representation," Engler said. He said disciplinary action by an employer could vary from a letter that remains on that worker's file, to dismissal, depending on the seriousness of the case. 

Female reporters on the receiving end of the FHITP trend agreed such incidents are disruptive. 
 
"The issue is how much some of these guys get into your personal space...I've never been grabbed or hit, but in one instance in particular, I definitely felt physically uncomfortable,"   said CBC Montreal reporter Tanya Birkbeck. She had the phrase yelled into her microphone three times in one day last year.
 

Birkbeck said she had made her supervisors aware of this trend, but that she'd heard  from lawyers and from police in Montreal that "nothing could be done." 

"I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Calgary police are taking this more seriously and that some perpetrators there might actually be charged," she said. 


Julie S. Lalonde, host of “The Third Wave” a weekly feminist radio show on CHUO 89.1FM, said Hydro One had every right to fire the engineer.

"Hydro One has an Employee Code of Conduct and his actions clearly violated it," she said. "Hydro One was within their right to terminate his employment. Freedom of expression does not mean that one does not suffer consequences for their words."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighed in on twitter, too: "Thanks @citynews for saying #ItsNeverOkay. Whether or not it’s caught on film, sexual harassment at work is no joke."

with files from Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.