Firing by text message: taboo or the way of the future?
Brandon Cardinal loved his job at a highway convenience store in Northern Alberta – until he was abruptly fired in a text message a few hours before his next shift.
“My manager texted me just before lunch and he told me my services were terminated with immediate effect, starting now,” the 21-year-old explained.
“I was really shocked to know I was let go over a text. I looked at my phone and my family was here and I was like, wow – I’m fired in a text. And they said, that’s not right!”
Cardinal didn’t know what his rights were as an employee and reached out to Alberta Labour for help.
“I felt sad, I didn’t know what to do. How am I going to go out there and get a job, find an opportunity like I did?”
He felt the impersonal text message left him without any option to ask why, or defend himself.
“I think it’s bad because my manager didn’t speak to me eye to eye, basically face to face,” he said.
“One of them could have sat me down, said, ‘Hey, Brandon, you’re being fired for so-and-so. Nothing, no explanation.”
The incident left him feeling his boss lacked professionalism.
Branko Culo would agree. As the owner of Express Employment Professionals, Culo and his staff are trained in the best practices of hiring and firing staff for clients.
“The professionalism, it’s missing, right? As an employer, your job is to be upstanding and communicate the culture to employees, what they should expect. You’re a leader.”
He said text messages can be difficult for employees to understand.
“You can’t get the tone or the context of how the message is truly being delivered by reading word by word. Not having that voice conversation or that personal touch to communicate why the decision is being made, for what reasons, what led up to the decision, really makes the people on the other end think, ‘What did I do wrong?'”
Culo said even though technology is being used for so much now, there are some situations where it crosses the line. He suggests meeting face to face and giving someone prior warning whenever possible.
“For an employer, I think it’s to maintain that professionalism. Employees respect it when you take the time to discuss with them why that decision is being made. Because at the end of the day, in this market economy, you’re changing someone’s life. They’re losing their job. The chance of them finding another job quickly is difficult.”
In the province of Alberta, Employment Standards dictate “an employer who terminates an employee’s employment must give written termination notice.”
The Labour Code was written long before cell phones became prevalent and is being updated – but the government said firing by text is currently acceptable. However, the onus is on the employer to make sure the message is received.
Employers must also give the appropriate notice and pay out any vacation, benefits or bonuses due to staff. If an employee feels they have been wrongfully dismissed, they can file an employment standards complaint.
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