Firing air rifle at work merited only a warning

Bonneville v. Unisource Canada Inc., 2002CarswellSask (Sask. Q.B.)

Bonneville disputed Unisource’s claim that it had just cause for termination and sought damages for wrongful dismissal. Bonneville had been employed by Unisource as a distribution manager for 24 years. At the same time, he was also employed by the Department of National Defence (DND) as a commanding officer of the Army Cadet Corps. Part of Bonneville’s responsibilities for the DND included training cadets which involved air rifle practice.

The allegation of just cause was based on an incident in which he fired an air rifle at targets in the Unisource warehouse. He had previously used the warehouse for training cadets, including air rifle practice. As a result of this incident being brought to the attention of management, he was suspended without pay pending an investigation. The investigation resulted in termination of his employment for cause.

Despite the fact his position made him responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the warehouse, and that Bonneville had never received permission to use it as a training area for cadets, or to bring rifles or guns onto the employer’s premises, the court still found Unisource did not have just cause. The court held that, although Bonneville made a mistake, this act alone did not constitute just cause.

The court referred to the fact that no employees were present in the area where the weapon was discharged and that at least three out of seven employees were aware of what Bonneville was doing. Furthermore, the air rifle was fired for a very short period of time during the lunch hour. Based on Bonneville’s previous length of service, the court found there was no reason why a lesser penalty, such as a warning, would not have been sufficient.

Bonneville had an exemplary employment record with 24 years of service, and therefore a dismissal was a disproportionate consequence in light of the act in question. The act did not affect Bonneville’s abilities to carry out the duties and responsibilities of his position. A 12-month period of reasonable notice subject to mitigation, including a 30 per cent contingency for anticipated future mitigation, was awarded.

Latest stories