Workplace personality conflicts are becoming all too common in the Canadian workplace given the heightened sensitivity to workplace harassment. With growing frequency, employees are raising concerns about how they are treated by senior management. However, what happens if an employee crosses the line between a legitimate concern to undermining the very essence of the employment relationship?
I am frequently asked by employer clients to describe what type of conduct by an employee will be held by the courts to qualify as cause for dismissal. Employers are often frustrated by the answer they receive – that it seems that nothing less than stealing money from the company will suffice. In the case of long time employees without prior instances of misconduct, theft may still be insufficient. A recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court has fortunately clarified the circumstances in which courts will find cause for dismissal as a result of dishonesty. What is striking about the decision is the reliance of the judge on a seemingly insignificant act committed by a nineteen year employee.
New research suggests that it may be wise for employers to take a reasonable approach when dealing with issues of employee web surfing during work; in fact, by banning it outright and excessively patrolling the workplace, employers may cause more harm than good.