No severance required for insubordinate employee

Worker's attitude showed no respect for supervisor or remorse for misconduct

An Ontario company does not have to provide severance pay to a fired employee because of the employee’s misconduct, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled.

Richard Marquis was a printing press operator at Arrow Games, a bingo and pull-tab game manufacturer in Brantford, Ont. On Sept. 6, 2006, the plant manager told Marquis he had a solution for a problem with the press. He recommended an adjustment on some of the rollers of the press, which is a common diagnostic test. Marquis refused, saying it wouldn’t solve the problem. The manager asked him to do it again, but Marquis still refused and he was sent home. The manager also said Marquis used foul language, called him an idiot and threatened him.

Marquis claimed he told the manager his back was sore and someone else should do it, though he still disagreed with the solution. He said the manager then called him a “know it all” and used an obscene name. Marquis responded by calling him a liar and used the same profanity. When he was told to go home, more profanities were exchanged.

Arrow called Marquis when he got home and told him he was suspended but had to attend a meeting on Sept. 8. At the meeting, Arrow management told him he had to sign a letter if he wanted to stay with Arrow. The letter referred to his “blatant insubordination” and if he wasn’t prepared to meet the employer’s requirements, further discipline — up to and including termination — would follow.

Management tried to go through the letter with Marquis, but he disagreed with everything, calling the plant manager an idiot and using more profanity. He also insisted any instructions from the manager be in writing from then on. After more shouting, interruptions and swearing, Marquis was fired.

The board found Marquis’ behaviour in the plant was insubordinate and his conduct at the meeting showed he was unwilling to accept differences of opinion. His refusal to apologize, both after the incident on Sept. 6 and at the meeting showed no remorse or willingness to accept direction from his supervisor. This damaged the employment relationship beyond even having him employed for the statutory notice period.

“Marquis’ conduct constitutes willful misconduct that was not trivial and not condoned by the employer,” the board said. “Accordingly, Mr. Marquis is not entitled to termination or severance pay under the Employment Standards Act.” See Marquis v. Arrow Games Corp., 2008 CarswellOnt 8537 (Ont. L.R.B.).

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