Innocent until proven guilty — mostly (Legal view)

Alleged assault at school raises issue of how to handle employee misconduct
By Natalie MacDonald
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 08/09/2007

A custodian at a school in Norwood, Ont., was charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student during school hours on Feb. 21. The school board investigated the incident and fired him on March 27.

A group of parents expressed outrage at the custodian’s termination before the charges had been proven in court. The board said it was a personnel issue.

The case raises issues regarding the civil nature of the employer’s responsibilities to an employee who is accused of criminal behaviour. On the one hand, the employer has a duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its employees. On the other, the employer is faced with the presumption in criminal law that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.