Candy worker caught with hand in cookie jar

Employee said anxiety and depression made him steal chocolate bars on the spur-of-the-moment

This instalment of You Make the Call features an employee caught trying to smuggle product out of his place of work.

Raymond Boodhoo, 45, was a machine operator at a chocolate bar plant for Toronto-based Cadbury Adams Canada. On July 1, 2005, Boodhoo, who had been employed with Cadbury for 19 years, left work at the end of his shift with a bag. It was standard practice for employees to have their bags checked by security as they left to prevent theft of chocolate bars, which cost Cadbury an estimated $200,000 per year. Boodhoo appeared to be in a hurry and quickly showed one side of his bag to the security guard. The guard demanded to see the other side and found two boxes of hazelnut candy bars inside, which Boodhoo said he had found on the floor. The guard went to find the supervisor and Boodhoo went back inside the plant. A short time later, Boodhoo came back out and said he had put them back. He took the supervisor and a guard to the spot in the warehouse where he said he found them and the guard noticed other boxes of chocolate bars piled between some cartons. On Aug. 9, 2005, Cadbury fired Boodhoo for stealing product, which it considered a “most serious industrial offence.”

Boodhoo said earlier that day he had received a telephone call from hismother, who told him his father, who was in Guyana, was dying. He said he felt he had to finish his shift or he’d get in trouble. At the end of his shift, he saw some chocolate bars on top of larger cartons and he took two boxes. He said he didn’t know why he did it and he knew he would be in trouble. His union argued it was an impulsive act caused by anxiety and depression from his father’s condition and thus constituted a disability.

On July 6, 2005, Boodhoo saw a social worker through Cadbury’s Employee Assistance Program, who determined he was suffering from depression and high anxiety because he was unable to attend his father’s funeral in Guyana. He was also diagnosed with “major depressive disorder” by a psychiatrist, which, along with family problems, had been the cause of an earlier stealing incident. The psychiatrist concluded there was a low risk for more incidents of theft since he had received therapy and knew how to handle it if he suffered from depression again.
Was theft of the chocolate bars serious enough misconduct to warrant termination?
Was Boodhoo’s depression and anxiety a disability that required accommodation?

If you said Boodhoo should have been fired, you’re right. The court board found Boodhoo’s misconduct was not impulsive and he should be held accountable for it. He had enough time to consider his actions and the fact more chocolate bars had been piled behind some cartons shows there had likely been some premeditation.

“After he took the boxes of chocolate from wherever he took them, he did have a period of time while he changed and prepared to go home to reflect on what he was doing,” the board said. “If the act of picking up the boxes was an impulsive act, then the impulse lasted for the time it took him to get to the change room, change to go home, and his initial attempts to leave the plant.”

The board felt the depression, anxiety and stress diagnosed by the social worker and the psychiatrist could have been the result of being caught stealing rather than “a long-standing depression triggered by the information about his father.” Considering there had been an earlier incident of theft as well, the board found it difficult to conclude he wouldn’t be a risk to do it again.

“I would not be prepared to find that the duty to accommodate includes, on the part of the company, the condonation of criminal activity on the part of an employee,” the board said. “Theft from the employer (is) one of the most serious industrial offences possible.”

For more information see:

Cadbury Adams Canada Inc. v. U.F.C.W., Local 175, 2007 CarswellOnt 7362 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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