This train conductor’s personal photos may have gotten her fired. (Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Katelnikoff)
Social media guidelines are often integrated into corporate contracts, with “appropriate use” outlined according to each company’s standards. But the recent firing of Canadian Pacific Railway train conductor Stephanie Katelnikoff over her personal social-media postings is raising red flags.
Leading up to her dismissal (her second from this company, but more on that later) in November, the 28-year-old from Calgary, Canada, had been the subject of an internal investigation, she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. According to the CBC, the company looked through her social media accounts to find violations of its code of ethics. But Katelnikoff claims these violations were not properly explained to her.
“They seemed to have an issue with a selfie I took proclaiming my love for my job. They seemed to have an issue with a news photo I had shared of a derailment I was a part of. And they seemed to have an issue with pictures that were taken before I even worked at the railroad,” she explains. “They made a general statement — ‘inappropriate social media content’ — when dismissing me. That sentence didn’t come with any elaboration.”
Within an evidence package obtained by the CBC, Canadian Pacific Railway highlighted a number of Katelnikoff’s personal posts — one of which depicted the conductor posing on train tracks (above), and others that included both positive and critical sentiments about her employer. Though a majority of the posts were from the employee’s modeling gigs, Canadian Pacific noted in a statement released to Yahoo Lifestyle that those modeling shots had nothing to do with the firing.
“Railway safety is a top priority at CP,” the company wrote. “Ms. Katelnikoff’s termination related to her decision to post photos of herself in unsafe situations on railway property and equipment, committing railway safety violations, along with disparaging remarks regarding the company. Her termination was not about her posting of personal photos or information per se that were not related in some way to railway safety and CP.”
But why were those shots included in the evidence file, and why, according to both Katelnikoff’s account and records obtained by the CBC, was the issue of safety left out from records and from the actual firing? The former conductor notes, however, that the ambiguity from CP Rail around her layoff is not surprising, based on the mixed messages she claims she received as an employee.
In December 2014, for example, the train conductor had been fired immediately following her second trip ever operating a train. That’s when she made headlines for being let go following a derailment that she says wasn’t her fault. Documents soon revealed, in fact, that she hadn’t received the proper training before being allowed to conduct a train on her own.
In a statement provided at the time to CBC, CP spokesman Jeremy Barry said Katelnikoff was “not dismissed for one single issue, she was dismissed because of a number of events over her six-month probationary period.” And although the statement is quite ambiguous, Katelnikoff believes a sexual harassment complaint she had submitted beforehand had played a big part in her dismissal.
“I was fired in 2014 for malicious and discriminatory reasons,” Katelnikoff states, “in part because I filed a sexual harassment complaint when somebody threatened to break into my house and rifle through my panties.”
A 14-month arbitration process revealed that CP Rail’s alleged reasons behind Katelnikoff’s firing “appear to be a camouflage of the company’s actual reasons that are discriminatory and in bad faith.” She returned to the company but still felt she was being discriminated against.
“My return was rocky, and I feel that I have been treated poorly since the day I came back,” she explains. “Not a week went by without some sort of issue. But the company has a long history of treating people poorly, so I can’t say I was surprised.”
Meanwhile, other people have been sharing their own stories of sexism and employee mistreatment by CP Rail on Katelnikoff’s personal Facebook page.
“Overall, their attitude is still sexist, backwards, and non-employee,” noted one commenter. “It is all about them.”
Since her dismissal nearly three months ago, Katelnikoff has not received her requested back pay. She has since revised her request, asking instead that the company simply pitch in and help with her charitable work.