In Render v ThyssenKrupp Elevator (Canada) Limited Group, the Ontario Court of Appeal clarified the threshold to establish willful misconduct under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 and provided guidance on how sexual harassment should be assessed in the workplace. Importantly, the Court found that while a single incident of inappropriate touching did not amount to willful misconduct as it was not preplanned, the employee's dismissal for cause was a proportionate response.
Anyone involved in human resources may think that if an employee who works in a manufacturing facility surrounded by potential health and safety hazards is found sleeping on the job on more than one occasion, they should be dismissed for cause and disentitled to severance of any kind. That would be a reasonable “gut reaction” to this type of fact situation. In fact, such decisions are routinely upheld by both the courts and labour arbitrators.
A recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, confirming a trial decision, once again demonstrates the difficulty employers will face in satisfying courts in this province that there was cause for dismissal.