Seven TVs and nothing on

An employee of a shipping company must pay his employer nearly $35,000 for his involvement in the theft of television sets

Wayne Spence was a dock person for Canadian Freightways in Calgary. He usually worked the 3 a.m. to noon shift, which had little supervision. He offloaded trailers from big shipments and reloaded the freight for local delivery.

Missing television sets

In October 2005, a shipment of Samsung sets was found to be short 20 units. Canadian Freightways had to pay more than $40,000 for the sets and another $8,000 for an investigation. In November 2006, 21 Hitachi sets went missing at the Calgary location, totalling more than $43,000. The company spent almost $20,000 investigating this loss. In December 2006, a shipment of generators out of the Calgary location was also found to be missing two units.

An anonymous source called police in December 2006, saying a Canadian Freightways employee was involved in the theft. The next month, the company itself received a call from one of Spence’s neighbours saying he saw several company crates being taken in and out of Spence’s house. This was corroborated by another neighbour, who saw seven television-sized boxes in his truck.

TVs found in worker’s home

Police obtained a search warrant and went to Spence’s house on Jan. 25, 2007. They found three Hitachi sets and one Samsung set, all matching the shipments of 2005 and 2006. Two of the sets were still packaged in crates in Spence’s garage, alongside a generator which matched the one stolen. Confirming the items were all Canadian Freightways property, the police charged Spence with theft and possession of stolen property.

Spence was convicted in January 2008 of unlawfully possessing items he knew were obtained through the commission of an offence.

Spence claimed a co-worker told him of a damaged repossessed Hitachi television and Spence agreed to buy it. He said the same co-worker also sold him three more televisions and a generator from an auction of damaged goods, and these were the items police found at his residence. Though he pled guilty to possession of stolen property, he claimed he didn’t know the items were stolen. He knew the Samsung set was Canadian Freightways property and the co-worker had been under suspicion and suspended after the 2005 theft, but he said he thought it had been obtained legitimately. He also denied being involved in the theft, didn’t know the Hitachi sets were company property until the police showed up and said the boxes his neighbours saw were renovation materials.

Canadian Freightways filed a grievance seeking damages for theft of company property or, alternatively, damages for him not living up to his duty as an employee to inform it of the items he knew were its property.

The arbitrator found it unlikely Spence didn’t know the televisions and generator were his employer’s property. He was aware of the thefts because of the company’s investigations and all of the shipments were in the Calgary yard at some point during his shifts. His claim they were from an auction of damaged goods also didn’t ring true, as two sets and the generator were still packed up in their crates. He also pled guilty to possession of his employer’s property that he knew was obtained through the commission of an offence.

“These facts lead me to the inescapable conclusion that Spence knew these goods came from a shipment of the employer and was stolen property,” the arbitrator said.

The arbitrator also found Spence’s claim the seven packages his neighbour saw in his truck were renovation materials to be unlikely, since he was seen taking some away from his house as well. Without a credible explanation and given the police found four of the sets in his house, the arbitrator ruled these packages were television sets stolen from Canadian Freightways and he had distributed the other three.

Worker breached duty to employer

However, though Spence was in possession of some of the stolen items, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to determine he stole all 41 missing sets. The arbitrator found he was on the hook for the seven Hitachi sets and the generator, whether he actually stole them or not.

“It matters not whether he stole the goods or came into possession of them from the thief,” the arbitrator said. “His conduct was dishonest and a breach of trust and his duty of fidelity to his employer.”

Though he had one set from the 2005 theft of Samsung televisions, the arbitrator found there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Spence’s involvement. However, his possession of seven Hitachi sets was enough to prove his involvement with the 2006 theft and as a result he was on the hook for the investigation costs, which were $19,961.39, plus more than $9,000 Canadian Freightways lost from the theft of the Hitachi sets.

Spence was ordered to pay Canadian Freightways total compensatory damages of $29,285.52 plus $5,000 in punitive damages for his “reprehensible conduct, dishonesty and breach of his duty of fidelity.”

At the time of the hearing, Spence was still employed with Canadian Freightways.

For more information see:

T.F.I. Transport 7 L.P., Transforce Administration Inc. and 4186937 Canada Inc, doing business as Canadian Freightways v. Wayne Bruce Spence (Apr. 25, 2008), David G. Tattensor — Arbitrator (Can. Arb. Bd.).

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