Lying about harm to community centre just cause for dismissal
An Ontario worker’s continued dishonesty over damage he caused to his employer’s property was just cause to terminate his employment, according to an arbitrator.
The worker was a facilities maintenance attendant for Loyalist Township in eastern Ontario, initially hired in June 2000. The township had a policy requiring “complete reporting of accident and incidents involving township staff and/or township equipment.”
On Feb. 6, 2019, the worker’s supervisor learned that the siding on a community centre had been damaged. The worker was one of only two people who operated snowplows in the parking lot where the damage had occurred.
The supervisor called the other snowplow driver, who told her that the worker had said he had damaged the siding with his snowplow but planned to say it was caused by ice buildup. The supervisor contacted the worker and the worker said he had noticed the damage when he was pulling snow away from the building. He said he didn’t know how it occurred, suggesting it was caused by snow and ice buildup.
The other employee emailed a report reiterating that the worker told him he had hit the siding with the plow on his township truck and adding that the worker had talked to a mechanic, who told him to use the ice buildup excuse.
The supervisor reviewed surveillance footage, which showed a truck snowplowing the parking lot where the damage occurred. It also showed the worker getting out of the truck and looking at the wall where the damage was.
On Feb. 9, the township hosted a high-profile figure-skating competition. The worker built a wooden judges’ stand for the rink and accepted an overtime assignment to assemble it on the morning of the competition. He believed it was to be done by 8:30 a.m., but it was supposed to be ready by 7:45.
However, parts of the stand weren’t delivered and the lead-hand didn’t come to check on its progress, so the worker had to get another employee’s help bringing the last pieces to the arena, after calling the lead-hand at 7:30 a.m. The stand wasn’t completed until 9 a.m. and the event was delayed.
The supervisor met with the worker on Feb. 12 to discuss the damage at the community centre. The worker continued to deny knowing how it had happened, but suggested ice buildup, a car or a delivery truck may have caused it. He also said he didn’t report the damage because it was on camera and he assumed the township already knew about it.
The worker was also asked about the stand for the skating competition and he maintained he had been told to have it done by 8:30 a.m.
The worker acknowledged it wasn’t completed by then and blamed his lead-hand for not providing clear directions or responding in a timely manner — he claimed he had called at 7 a.m., but the lead-hand said it was closer to 7:30.
The township decided to terminate the worker’s employment. The supervisor told him that the community centre incident was enough to justify termination and his failure to complete the judges’ stand for the skating competition was additional misconduct.
The arbitrator found that the delay in assembling the stand in the arena wasn’t the worker’s fault — the lead-hand didn’t show up to oversee it, even after learning of the delay, and not all of the pieces were delivered. As a result, it wasn’t additional misconduct, the arbitrator said.
However, the arbitrator also found that it was clear the worker caused the damage to the community centre but he continued to deny it and promoted false accounts of the incident. He didn’t show remorse for the misconduct or for misleading the employer. This “continued lack of candour” and dishonesty “severely ruptured the employment relationship,” the arbitrator said in upholding the termination.
Reference: Loyalist (Township) and CUPE, Local 2150. Gail Misra — arbitrator. Steven Menard for employer. Christine Lang for employee. April 9, 2020. 2020 CarswellOnt 5508