This piece was written for Daily Hive by Gerald Narciso, a Vancouver-based freelance journalist.
A teaching assistant from BC is learning her job is in jeopardy over her OnlyFans page.
Last Friday morning, the 35-year-old Port Coquitlam resident received an unexpected electronic cease and desist letter from her employer at a Vancouver-area secondary school.
The email was sent to Kristin MacDonald, but it was really addressing “Ava James,” her alter ego on OnlyFans, a popular social media platform where users can sell original content, including pornographic material, to paying subscribers.
“You’re directed to immediately cease all activity and to remove all online social media accounts including but not limited to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and OnlyFans,” read the email from the secondary school.
“Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Under the “Ava James” handle, MacDonald has been creating adult content for OnlyFans and supporting Instagram and TikTok pages since July 2022. As a single mother, her OnlyFans side hustle has provided much-needed extra income for her infant daughter.
She is currently on medical disability due to a recurring back injury.
“I don’t make a livable wage being an education assistant,” MacDonald told Daily Hive on Friday, hours after receiving the cease and desist letter.
MacDonald has worked in the Coquitlam School District since 2015 and specializes in working with children and teens with special needs. As of Thursday, MacDonald has not been disciplined or terminated from her position at the secondary school (which is not named in this story per MacDonald’s request).
MacDonald’s current career crisis exposes a legal and moral dilemma resulting from merging her job in education with working separately as a sex worker.
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“It makes me sad because I feel like I am good at my [teaching] job,” she says. “And I feel very strongly that I should be able to do both in this day and age in a liberal place such as Vancouver.”
MacDonald says she had taken precautionary steps to keep her OnlyFans separate from her career in education: her social media accounts were under different names; her professional email and phone number were not linked to the OnlyFans account; and coworkers were blocked.
Despite attempts to remain anonymous, her secret eventually got out at her workplace. She speculates that her colleagues discovered her OnlyFans page and circulated it internally. Her union president provided her with additional context to the letter.
“Apparently, there have been complaints by parents saying that their son or daughter has come across some of my socials [related to “Ava James”],” says MacDonald, noting that she wears nothing less than a bikini and her content is typical for TikTok or Instagram.
“I’m pretty sure I’m canned”
Daily Hive reached out to the secondary school and its corresponding district for comment and fact checks.
“As a matter of course, the district will not provide information regarding any individual,” a representative from the district wrote in an email Thursday.
In the cease and desist letter, the school had referenced MacDonald was in violation of the “adverse report” article in the collective agreement she had signed at the beginning of her employment. A signed complaint by a student is part of an adverse report violation according to the collective agreement (although a specific incident was not referenced in the cease and desist letter).
“I feel like I’m being harassed and discriminated against based on information that they assume,” says MacDonald.
“Sex work is work”
“Sex workers face rampant occupational discrimination,” Dr. Angela Jones, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, told Daily Hive. “Even in fields such as pornography, which are legal in the US and Canada, workers face significant stigma, contributing to forms of discrimination in housing, banking and financial institutions, healthcare, educational institutions, and, as you are documenting, in other forms of employment.”
MacDonald’s rights and whether she is being legally discriminated against, or whether the school is justified under the law with the cease and desist letter as well as the possibility of termination is complicated.
Lia Moody, a Western Canada practice leader of the Employment Law Group at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, says determining whether MacDonald’s OnlyFans account is cause for disciplinary action depends on two factors: the connection, if any, to her job at the school; and the existence of any policies that speak to expectations for online conduct and clearly set out the consequences of a breach.
“The presumptive rule is that what you do in your personal time and outside the confines of your workday will not give an employer the right to terminate employment for cause,” Moody told Daily Hive.
“Sex work is work; whether Kristin drove for Uber or posted on OnlyFans should not matter,” adds Dr. Jones. “People in a free society should be able to engage in whatever consensual labour they choose without fear of reprisal.”
Even if MacDonald is legally entitled to create adult content on OnlyFans without losing her teaching assistant job, some may feel an ethical grey area still exists considering her employment in education involves working with teenagers.
“In the event of her firing, the school is not protecting its students,” argues Dr. Jones. “They are sending a terrible paternalistic message, instilling shame and reifying the idea that not all workers are entitled to dignity and respect and that occupational discrimination is acceptable.”
Since receiving the cease and desist letter last week, MacDonald has remained defiant. All social media channels, including OnlyFans, related to “Ava James” are still up and active. Against stern instructions to keep the letter internal and confidential, she has contacted employment lawyers, the news media, and women’s rights groups.
Now, MacDonald is waiting for the other shoe to drop. She understands there are potential consequences, including possibly losing her job, which entails working with students with special needs.
“It would make me really sad,” MacDonald says. “I think that I’m really good at connecting with students. To overlook somebody based on them trying to make more money in their personal life – I disagree with it.
“Furthermore, it is my body and only mine.”