Mail carrier pushes schedule envelope

B.C. carrier left mail behind but denied awareness of policy forbidding it

Editor’s Note: This article is from a recent “You Make the Call,” a regular feature that runs in Canadian Employment Law Today, a sister publication to Canadian HR Reporter. In each issue, we present the facts of a case and let you guess what the judge or arbitrator ruled. It’s a great way to test your knowledge of employment law. For more information, visit employmentlawtoday.com.

This instalment of “You Make the Call” features a mail carrier who was fired for failing to deliver all of his mail on time.

Paul Linklater was a Canada Post mail carrier in North Vancouver for 28 years. Canada Post had a policy that stipulated employees would face discipline “up to and including discharge” for delayed delivery of mail. It informed employees of this policy through regular meetings and notices. One notice stated the penalty was a five-day suspension, which could include dismissal and a second offence within 12 months would “normally result in dismissal.”

Canada Post also implemented a “clean floor policy” in 2007, which meant it expected carriers to deliver all addressed mail the same day it was received. It issued notices of this expectation to employees, though it wasn’t specifically called a clean floor policy. The corporation did not outline the discipline for violating the clean floor policy.

On Sept. 20, 2007, Linklater told his supervisors he was finding it difficult to sort all of his mail within the time assigned before his scheduled departure for delivery. He was told all mail must be delivered and if he had any problems to inform his supervisors.

On Sept. 24, Linklater was feeling sick and asked his supervisor to prioritize his mail. His hours were reduced and another carrier delivered some of his afternoon mail. The next day, Linklater discussed his route with his supervisor but didn’t ask for any further assistance, though he said there was a lot of mail, some from the previous day. He sorted some mail and left to deliver it, leaving some behind, which he claimed he had done in the past.

Shortly after Linklater left for his route, his supervisors checked his case and found mail left behind. They left him a note asking him to sort and deliver it “today.” When Linklater returned in the late morning, he said he was confused about the note and looked for his supervisors but nobody was around. As he was still feeling sick and didn’t consider the note a “direct order,” he went home.

When the supervisors found the mail undelivered and the note thrown in the garbage, they summoned Linklater to a meeting. Linklater said he believed past procedure was to leave mail if there was too much and a supervisor should tell him if all the mail should be delivered right away. He said he missed the notification about the clean floor policy.

The supervisors found his attitude unreasonable and felt he wouldn’t accept he did anything wrong. Concerned over his lack of remorse and the seriousness of his misconduct, Canada Post fired Linklater on Sept. 27, 2007.

You make the call: Was the dismissal for serious misconduct appropriate? Or was it too harsh a penalty?

If you said the dismissal was too harsh, you’re right. The board agreed Linklater’s misconduct was serious and “inconsistent with his duties as a mail carrier.” It was unlikely he missed the notice of the clean floor policy as it had been extensively disseminated and other workers knew about it, said the board. The Sept. 20 meeting and the note on his undelivered mail also clearly communicated Canada Post’s expectations.

“(Linklater) understood his employment obligations under the clean floor policy and could no longer justify leaving mail behind at his case,” said the board.

However, Linklater had a long career with no recent discipline. There were several recent changes, such as the clean floor policy, that were leading to heavier mail volumes and causing him frustration, which led to his “intentional misconduct,” found the board. There was no deceit or dishonesty often associated with major misconduct — he didn’t try to hide it from his supervisors — and it was a first offence, it found.

Given his employment record and likelihood of rehabilitation, the dismissal was excessive and progressive discipline was more appropriate, ruled the board. It reinstated Linklater without loss of seniority with a one-year unpaid suspension.

For more information see:

Canada Post Corp. v. C.U.P.W., 2009 CarswellNat 954 (Can. Arb. Bd.).

Jeffrey R. Smith is editor of Canadian Employment Law Today, a sister publication to Canadian HR Reporter that looks at employment law from a business perspective. For more information, including a special introductory offer for new subscribers, visit employmentlawtoday.com.

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