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Don’t Tweet That….

August 22, 2019

Professor’s tweets held to violate arbitration settlement agreement, university relieved of obligation to provide payment

In Acadia University v. Acadia University Faculty Association, the university had terminated Dr. Rick Mehta, a tenured professor, after there was controversy about various remarks he had made. The faculty association grieved the termination and the matter proceeded to a mediation, in which a confidential agreement was reached under which neither party admitted liability or culpability, and under which the university was to pay Mehta a specified amount. Despite the clear and strong confidentiality clause, Mehta began tweeting about the agreement within minutes of its conclusion, referring to himself as “vindicated” and making repeated references to “severance.” He was immediately advised by counsel for the faculty association to delete the tweets, but did not do so. At one point he deleted certain tweets but left others, and in a letter to the President of the university he threatened to release the agreement unless certain conditions were met.

Arbitrator William Kaplan held that it was “quite clear” that Mehta had breached the settlement agreement multiple times; quite apart from breaching the confidentiality clause, he had not been “vindicated” and it was highly inaccurate to refer to the payment provided for in the agreement as “severance.” He ruled:

Settlements in labour law are sacrosanct and given the repeated and continuing breaches, together with the absence of any mitigating circumstance or explanation, I find that the University is no longer required to honour the payment provision.

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