The case of the missing stretch wrap

Mutton v. AOT Canada Ltd., [2002] O.J. No. 696 (Ont. S.C.J.)

Mutton’s employment was terminated after slightly less than one year. He brought an action against AOT Canada for damages for wrongful dismissal, defamation and punitive damages. AOT claimed Mutton had been dismissed for just cause, alleging he had stolen various amounts of stretch wrap. Mutton said he had taken six plastic bags, not stretch wrap, and he had been given permission to do so.

After the incident was brought to management’s attention, no immediate action was taken in the hopes Mutton would admit his wrongdoing. When this didn’t happen AOT suspended him pending an investigation. A few days later Mutton’s employment was terminated due to the theft. At trial the court held the employer had established the allegation of theft on a balance of probabilities. It further held that, although the stretch wrap was probably of small value, in the circumstances the theft amounted to just cause for dismissal.

The court noted Mutton had not been with the company for a significant period of time and AOT had a policy which stated that theft is subject to immediate discharge for just cause. Of paramount significance to the court was the fact the employer had a policy which imposed a positive self-discipline system on employees.

Accordingly in these circumstances where Mutton was not a long standing employee and where the employees were self-supervising, his theft and breach of trust constituted just cause for dismissal.

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