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Supreme Court

Just Cause Established Even When Employer Finds Out About Employee’s Conduct After Dismissal

Campbell v. Harrigan Rentals and Equipment Ltd. October 2013

In a recent wrongful dismissal case heard by the British Columbia Supreme Court, a 69 year old accountant with 14 years of service sued his Employer for damages claiming his Employer failed to provide reasonable notice after he was terminated for just cause on the basis that he had used a company gas card to fill up his spouse’s car and making insurance claims on behalf of his spouse whom he was separated from.

The Plaintiff states that he was told the gas card was for personal use and the Employer states that he was told it was for “his personal use”. The Court ruled that the evidence did not establish on a balance of probabilities that the Plaintiff’s use of the gas card was “intentionally dishonest” and therefore, the Employer did not establish just cause on that basis.

The Plaintiff admitted that he did submit medical expenses for his wife both before and after they were separated claiming that he did believe that this was covered by the plan.  At the time the claims were submitted, they were still legally married. The Company did not have any evidence from Blue Cross about the policy and therefore, the Court found that the Company had failed to prove that the Plaintiff had made any improper claims.

At law, where an Employer discovers information post-termination constituting after-acquired grounds for dismissal, the Employer can rely upon that information to prove just cause.

In this case, prior to the commencement of the trial, the Employer uncovered information that it had not been aware of at the time of termination.  The Plaintiff had taken two unauthorized pay advances of $500.00 each. The Plaintiff stated that there was no policy prohibiting pay advances and that he had properly recorded the advances in the books and promptly paid the monies back.  The Court agreed with the Employer’s view on this namely that the Plaintiff had abused his position by giving himself pay advances without obtaining prior authorization to do so.

As well, it was found out that the Plaintiff had inflated the inventory on the books.  The Plaintiff claimed that this practise was known and approved by the prior owner. The Court found that even if it was approved by the prior owner which could not be verified because he was now deceased, the Plaintiff had a duty to bring this dishonest conduct of “inflating the inventory” to the new owner’s attention.

The Court concluded that the Plaintiff’s actions of taking salary advances and inflating the inventory did constitute just cause even though it was not aware of this conduct at the time of his dismissal.

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