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Dishonesty in hiring process constitutes cause for dismissal

dishonestyA recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has confirmed that, in certain scenarios, an employee’s dishonesty in the hiring process will constitute cause for dismissal.

The defendant employer, Canada’s leading nuclear energy agency, is required to comply with government rules respecting site access security clearance. As such, candidates for employment are required to complete a security questionnaire, which requests, among other things, a complete employment history for the five years prior. The plaintiff, in completing the questionnaire, omitted a short-term position which he had held for only a number of weeks. When asked by the employer to confirm his employment status during the period of time in question, the plaintiff maintained that he had been unemployed. The plaintiff was ultimately granted security clearance. After approximately 6 months the plaintiff’s employment was terminated.

The plaintiff’s claim for wrongful termination was dismissed by way of summary judgment. The Court stated that, while dishonesty does not automatically give rise to cause, where the dishonesty “goes to the core of the employment relationship”, just cause for dismissal will be established. The Court reasoned that the defendant in this case is not a regular employer and it conducts security checks for reasons that go well beyond the usual assessment of suitability based on past performance. Here, the requirement for thorough security checks is “tied to the security of the nation.” In light of this context, the plaintiff’s omission amounted to dishonesty that went to the core of the employment relationship and was irreconcilable with sustained employment.

By Rhonda Shirreff, Lawyer and written with the assistance of Erika Anschuetz, articling student, Norton Rose Fulbright

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