Worker fired after stealing supplies to pay debt

Employee reported to management by cousin to whom he was indebted

Wilfred Deal was fired from Louisiana-Pacific Canada’s East River plant after it was discovered he had been stealing from the Nova Scotia-based company for years.

Deal was terminated after it was reported to his supervisors he had been stealing items from the company for the past two or three years. Deal’s cousin made the phone call on May 12 alerting management that Deal had stolen cleaner, light bulbs, scissors, buffing wheels, grip tape, grinding discs, oil and various types of gloves over an extended period.

According to the cousin, Deal owed him money and had been paying off the debt in stolen merchandise. The cousin informed management Deal wanted to return the items immediately. The plant’s manager and Deal’s superintendent met with the cousin on May 14 in the company’s parking lot.

The cousin answered several questions and handed over two boxes of merchandise which were taken back to the plant, inventoried and estimated to value around $250.
A meeting was then called with Deal and a representative from his union, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (now Unifor) Local 434. When asked if he had taken items from the plant, Deal admitted to taking a few pairs of gloves, telling management his cousin "must be trying to get [him] fired."

On May 16, following the investigation and interview, Deal was dismissed. The union filed a grievance on Deal’s behalf, arguing his long-term employment of 30 years should be considered a mitigating factor. Deal enjoyed his job as a forklift operator at the plant, was sorry for what he had done and promised it would never happen again.

Additionally, the union argued the collective agreement does not provide a specific penalty for theft.

The employer, however, said Deal’s theft spanned a period of several years and was pre-meditated. A previous letter in Deal’s personnel file — a written warning — dealt with an inconsistent account of events with respect to missing safety glasses.

According to the employer, Deal’s actions had effectively shattered the relationship of trust necessary between an employer and its employees.

Deal did not apologize when first confronted with the evidence, the employer argued, and is only now remorseful in the aftermath of losing his job.

Records show there were three previous cases of theft at the plant. All three cases were dealt with by terminations and only one was pursued to arbitration with a modified penalty imposed.

Arbitrator Robert D. Breen said in his decision that "absent compelling circumstances suggesting otherwise, it is accepted that the appropriate penalty for planned thefts is termination."

The persistent thefts — carried out over a number of years — underscore a high degree of premediation, Breen said. And considering the evidence before him, Deal was not credible.

"Being sorry after one is proven to be caught is not the same as immediate contrition, which did not appear when Deal was first challenged. The aggravating factors in this case outweigh any benefit earned by Deal’s near 30 years of employment," Breen said.

"The grievor is in his trying circumstances as a result of his own actions taken. I find reasons lacking in the evidence before me on which to substitute a lesser penalty," he added.

The termination was upheld and Deal’s grievance dismissed.

Reference: Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd. and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (Unifor) Local 434. Robert D. Breen — arbitrator. David W. Clark for the employer, Carla Bryden for the union. Nov. 10, 2014.

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