Here we go again.
Last year, it was TTC passengers who began filming bus drivers and ticket collectors who they believed were performing poorly, and then posting those videos on you-tube. This strategy got a lot of news coverage, but also had the predictable result of raising tensions among TTC employees and the public even worse than they already were. In one incident, a driver angrily filmed an angry passenger filming him. It turned out the ticket collector who was filmed asleep and posted on the front page of newspapers was ill and on heavy meds, went on sick leave after becoming the subject of public ridicule, and then died a few months later. This was not a proud day in the history of Toronto.
I was contacted by CBC radio yesterday for my opinion on an incident on an Ottawa bus involving a driver who was filmed verbally abusing a passenger and the video was then posted on You-Tube. The driver was fired, and the union has filed a grievance asking for reinstatement. Again, not defending the driver’s behaviour, but it turns out that the driver is going through a very tough time, having recently lost both his wife and mother to cancer. Often there is more to a story than is evident in a short videoclip.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the driver’s behaviour in Ottawa is inexcusable and he should be subject to some form of discipline. But I’m interested in another issue here that is being completely overlooked:
What is the legal responsibility of the transit employers to ensure, or at least attempt to prohibit passengers from video-taping their employees?
I have not seen either the TTC or OC Transpo come out strong against passengers pulling out video phones or cameras on buses and trains and filming their employees. Should this be discouraged, and passengers told firmly to use the passenger complaint processes rather than You-Tube and personal paparazzi’s if they have a problem with a driver?
Employers have a variety of legal obligations to prevent unwanted harassment in the workplace, to ensure a safe working environment, and since Bill 168 became law, to ensure policies are in place to address when an employee is faced with harassment at work or the threat of violence at work. Buses and trains are workplaces. They are the drivers’ offices.
If I walked into my Dean’s office, or the office of another professor or administrative assistant, and began filming them against their wishes, and then posted their angry response to my filming them on the internet, I have no doubt that I would be disciplined in some way. My employer would certainly announce that filming employees at the workplace without their consent is a forbidden intrusion on privacy and harassment that is guaranteed to be disruptive to productivity and workplace morale. How would you feel if a stranger or customer came into your office and started filming you against your wishes, and then posted the video for all to see on the internet? Would you expect your employer to support you in saying that no filming of employees at work by customers or anyone else will be permitted? I can tell you that if someone filmed me at work, and didn’t stop when I asked, I would have no qualms grabbing their phone and throwing it out the window. Would I be in the wrong there?
We have already seen on numerous occasions that filming drivers tends to raise tensions, not ease them. This creates a real risk of a violent altercation (if not a crash!).
Do you think these risks trigger a legal duty on the transit companies to introduce and promote a policy banning the video recording of employees on buses and trains, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including the new Bill 168?
From an HR perspective, do you think the employers’ should protect the right of employees to not be filmed at work against their wishes?
Or do you think the passengers should be encouraged by the employer to film any situation in which they perceive a transit worker to be acting inappropriately.