TORONTO – Controversial as it may be, Hydro One’s rehiring of an employee who defended the sexist heckling of a female TV reporter was no surprise, according to a Toronto labour lawyer.
Shawn Simoes lost his job last May after his encounter with CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt, who confronted a bystander that yelled “F—k her right in the p—y” during a report outside BMO Field.
Simoes didn’t yell the remark, but defended the heckler, saying the FHRITP phenomenon is “f—king hilarious.”
Ontario’s power utility quickly fired Simoes after a storm of public outrage, but he was quietly rehired after a recent arbitrator’s ruling.
Labour lawyer Danny Kastner says the termination was never going to stick.
“It was always unlikely that the termination was going to hold up,” he said.
“It seems to me that Hydro One for PR reasons, had to pull the trigger and terminate his employment at the outset but they did so knowing it was likely they would be forced into arbitration to reinstate him.”
A statement from Simoes’ union said the arbitrator found the firing was “unjust” and was swayed by Simoes’ attempt to make amends for the incident, including voluntary sensitivity training and a donation to the White Ribbon campaign.
Kastner says employee remorse is a key mitigating factor, but other issues also likely came into play.
“It is always more difficult for employers to discipline for off-duty misconduct,” he explained. “But it also has to do with the nature of Mr. Simoes’ role at Hydro One, which was not client-facing, as is my understanding. And that would be a key distinction in a case like this.
“If you have someone who represents Hydro One to the public on a day-to-day basis, then that public off-duty misconduct will presumably more seriously impair that employee’s ability to do their job than for someone whose responsibilities are internal.”
Overall, Simoes’ status as a unionized employee is a major factor, and Kastner says a non-unionized worker in his shoes would have a much harder time regaining their job.
Global News inquired with the Society of Energy Professionals as to precisely when Simoes was rehired and whether he’ll be reinstated in the same previous position, but those details were not released.