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A rioter calls on the riot police at Hamilton Street and Georgia Street after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)
A rioter calls on the riot police at Hamilton Street and Georgia Street after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)

Consequences

Can rioters lose their jobs? Add to ...

As police sift through thousands of videos and photographs of people involved in Vancouver's Stanley Cup riot, employers are also studying the evidence.

Some people have already lost their jobs as a result of their alleged involvement in the riot and others could face dismissal as their employers come under pressure from angry customers who want to see rioters sacked.

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Labour law, however, may not support an employer's right to fire a person over acts committed by that person when he or she is not at work.

"Terminating people for just cause on the basis that their conduct has essentially repudiated the employment agreement … that is an extremely high threshold to meet these days in Canada," Peter Eastwood, a labour lawyer with Borden Ladner Gervais in Vancouver, said on Monday.

"Unless you can clearly show this [riot conduct]is tied somehow to the employment relationship, it's going to be very difficult to say that that person has breached the employment relationship simply by doing some horrible, obviously egregious, thing, but in their off-duty conduct."

Companies that have policies relating to employees' use of social media or conduct off the job could have more leeway when it comes to firing employees over riot-related acts or social media postings, Mr. Eastwood said, adding that he expects that the riot - and its aftermath of online vigilantism - will spur more companies to consider adding such language to their contracts.

While some riot-related firings might not hold up in court or under the B.C. Human Rights Code - which prohibits firing because that person has been convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment or to the intended employment of that person - Mr. Eastwood does not expect a flurry of wrongful dismissal or human-rights claims over riot-related firings.

Most of the people at risk of such firings are young, likely don't have the money to pursue a lengthy case and want to put the episode behind them, he said.

Some companies have received angry phone calls and calls for boycotts after employees were linked to the riot.

Justin Reitz, the owner of Delta-based RiteTech Construction, fired an employee after the person posted favourable comments about the riot on Facebook.

Within hours of those comments being posted on a riot-busting website, Mr. Reitz had received dozens of e-mails and telephone calls, many threatening to boycott his company unless he fired the employee.

"I fired him for cause," Mr. Reitz said on Monday. "And the cause was, he was hurting my business and my reputation."

Under B.C.'s Employment Standards Act, non-union employees can be fired without cause as long as they're given proper notice. Companies that want to avoid any possibility of wrongful termination, may choose to go that route, Mr. Eastwood said.

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