Cable company cuts off employee after complaints

Worker denied he caused problems with customers and claimed many like him

This instalment of You Make the Call features an embattled Shaw employee who was fired after complaining about his supervisor.

Joseph Swalehe was a customer service representative for Shaw Cablesystems, a telecommunications company, in Vancouver. When he was hired in 2006, it was a condition of his employment that he had to conduct himself “in a friendly, courteous and professional manner” and be helpful to customers, regardless of how they behaved towards him.

Over the first three-and-one-half years of his employment, Swalehe received several written warnings for lateness, attendance, cash shortages, lack of customer focus, lack of accountability and attitude. Each warning stated future issues would lead to termination of his employment.

On May 14, 2010, Swalehe received another warning for absences and lateness for work. This time, he was warned if there wasn’t an immediate improvement, he would likely be fired.

In the fall of 2010, a customer secretly filmed Swalehe and posted the video on YouTube under the title “Dealing with Shaw Cable.” Swalehe posted a comment with coarse language telling the customer “you don’t ever come to my work and film me again.” A supervisor met with Swalehe because Swalehe had acknowledged he worked for Shaw and had used inappropriate language in the online comment. Swalehe agreed his conduct was inappropriate but felt Shaw should have considered he was upset at being filmed while working.

Over the next two months, Shaw received three customer complaints about Swalehe, including one who cancelled her service because of the way he treated her. In January 2011, Swalehe’s supervisor overheard a heated conversation between Swalehe and a customer, with Swalehe belittling the customer. The supervisor warned Swalehe but Swalehe denied using offensive language or tone.

Two more customer complaints led to another meeting where Swalehe was given a memo outlining Shaw’s concerns and stating he would be terminated without immediate improvement. Swalehe denied many of the incidents and argued his sales numbers were good and many customers and other supervisors liked him. He felt he was being singled out and began yelling before storming out of the office.

Swalehe complained to HR that some of the warnings he had been given were unwarranted and his supervisor was being unfair to him.

Eight days after his complaint, Swalehe was dismissed. He filed a complaint of unjust dismissal, arguing he didn’t get enough credit for his five years of service with mostly only minor infractions, and he was only terminated after complaining about his supervisor.

You Make the Call

Did Shaw have just cause for dismissal?
Was the decision to terminate too swift?

If you said Shaw had just cause for dismissal, you’re right. The arbitrator accepted Swalehe’s assertion that some customers gave him positive comments. However, this reflected Swalehe was simply doing his job. However, the complaints indicated at other times Swalehe was not following Shaw’s conduct standards and therefore not doing his job properly, said the arbitrator.

The arbitrator found the complaints against Swalehe and the warnings he received were not exaggerated and were made by “reasonable people” with no ulterior motives. Many of the infractions earlier in his tenure were minor, but the customer complaints he received later were more serious. Though he was employed with Shaw for five years, the serious customer-related misconduct took place in late 2010 and 2011, which led to Swalehe’s dismissal.

Additionally, the arbitrator found Swalehe’s complaints against his supervisor were without merit and Shaw had the right to manage staff as it saw fit. The complaint had nothing to do with Swalehe’s termination, said the arbitrator. The unjust dismissal application was dismissed. See Swalehe v. Shaw Cablesystems Ltd., 2012 CarswellNat 2257 (Can. Arb. Bd.).

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