By Jeffrey R. Smith
Honesty is the best policy. This applies to everyday life, but it especially applies to employees when dealing with their employers.
There are numerous legal cases that demonstrate that dishonesty is one of the things that can most destroy an employment relationship and warrant termination of employment. Often, lying about misconduct is considered worse than the misconduct itself by employers, courts and arbitrators.
For example, a few months ago, a British Columbia arbitration, Re Overwaitea Food Group and UFCW, Local 1518 (FS Grievance), featured an employee of a food store chain — who was known to have a bit of a temper and have a tendency to speak her mind without thinking — became worked up after a co-worker needing accommodation was transferred to another store.
The employee required similar accommodation and was concerned about how her hours would be affected. After asking a manager about the new schedule and not getting a satisfactory answer, the employee mentioned that if she ended up with fewer hours, she would find her boyfriend’s gun — her boyfriend was an RCMP officer — and bring it to work.
The employer investigated and the employee denied making the comment, despite the fact the manager had no reason to make it up and had made notes about the conversation. The employee continued to deny it after being asked multiple times and the employer decided to dismiss the employee for making the threat and raising concerns about the safety of staff and customers.
An arbitrator found dismissal may have been too harsh, since it seemed the employer didn’t take the threat too seriously — it allowed the employee to continue to work for a couple of days after and the manager to whom the threat was made continued to work with the employee. The store also didn’t take any extra measures to ramp up safety precautions for staff and customers. However, the arbitrator upheld the dismissal because the employee continued to deny making the comment in the face of reports showing otherwise. This refusal to accept responsibility for making the threat and lack of forthrightness with the company damaged the employment relationship beyond repair, said the arbitrator.
The employment relationship hinges on a level of trust and respect by both sides. If one side can’t trust the other, it creates circumstances that can’t continue without problems. Termination of employment is the capital punishment of the employment relationship, and if an employee is dishonest in regards to her job, that could be a capital crime.
Jeffrey R. Smith is the editor of Canadian Employment Law Today, a publication that looks at workplace law from a business perspective. He can be reached at email@example.com or visit www.employmentlawtoday.com for more information.