Saskatchewan employee fired for alleged theft

'Employer failed to give grievor right to be heard': Arbitration board

The Prince Albert Co-Operative Association in Saskatchewan fired Greg Snaith after he allegedly stole two windows. The employer also reported the theft to police before addressing the issue with Snaith, which resulted in a criminal charge. 

Snaith’s union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 496, requested he be reinstated and made whole. 
Snaith worked as a yard foreman for the employer’s Saskatchewan-based Agro Centre. He began working for the employer in 2005 and had a clean disciplinary record until his 2013 termination. 

Before his dismissal, Snaith was building a new home and had purchased materials and products for his home from the employer. Among those items were a number of windows, some from stock and some newly ordered. Snaith was not invoiced for two of the windows delivered to his construction site.  

Because of comments Snaith reportedly made about the windows, and what the employer considered to be suspicious circumstances surrounding the events, it was concluded Snaith had stolen the windows. As a result, his employment was terminated. 

Snaith argued the entire thing was a mistake. He did not steal the windows, he said, the employer simply forgot to include them on the invoice. 

According to Snaith, it was not unheard of for inventory to be delivered without an invoice, and in the months prior to his dismissal, Snaith had raised the issue of missing or damaged inventory with his managers. When the order first arrived at the employer’s centre, Snaith discovered two windows were missing from his order. He reported this to management, saying that the windows could likely be found for sale online based on the way materials had been going missing recently. 

The employer, however, testified Snaith was overheard saying the windows could be found for sale online, insinuating that he had placed the windows for sale.

Because construction of his house was ongoing, Snaith chose two other windows from the employer’s inventory to be included with his order when it was delivered to his construction site. He asked management to bill him for the windows. When the order was delivered, the windows were not included on the invoice. 

Weeks later, two windows were discovered to be missing from another customer’s order. The windows missing were the same type of windows Snaith had needed and the employer came to the conclusion that Snaith had stolen the windows. Management decided to go to Snaith’s construction site to confirm whether the windows missing from the customer’s order were indeed those taken by Snaith. 

Following this trip, the suspected theft was reported to the police and Snaith was suspended pending further investigation. 
Snaith was charged with possession of stolen property under $5,000 and fired. While it was normally the employer’s practice to conduct an investigation, management said it did not want to jeopardize the police investigation into the matter. No hearing was held by the employer regarding the allegations. 

“The burden on the employer is to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the grievor committed the act of internal theft. This is a very serious allegation,” the arbitration board said in its ruling. 

“The employer failed to give the grievor the right to be heard before jumping to the conclusion that this was theft. The right to a fair and impartial hearing regarding a work-related problem is a right the employer provided its employees. It is a right set out in the employee handbook. The employer jumped over this step.” 

As a result, the grievance was sustained and Snaith’s termination was set aside. The arbitration board ordered Snaith be reinstated and made whole for loss of pay, benefits and seniority. 

Reference: Prince Albert Co-Operative Association Limited and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 496. William F.J. Hood, arbitrator; Randy Wassermann, employer nominee; Gloria Cymbalisty, union nominee. Leah Schatz for the employer, Gary L. Bainbridge for the union. May 2, 2016. 

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