In the recent decision involving Services Entretien
d'édifices Allied Inc. (Allied), the Labour Relations
Board of Quebec cancelled the terminations imposed on five
maintenance employees for theft and reserved its jurisdiction to
determine the appropriate remedy and damages.
Allied provides maintenance services to public buildings and has
250 employees. Allied has entered into several contracts with
clients providing for the cleaning of their buildings.
In the present case, Allied immediately dismissed five of its
maintenance employees after viewing a surveillance video that
appeared to show the employees removing cans of soda from a vending
machine located in a client's cafeteria. The video showed the
employees repeatedly reaching into the dispenser slot and pulling
out cans of soda over the course of a few days.
The terminated employees, four of which were close to 60 years
old and over, filed a complaint for a dismissal without good and
sufficient cause with the Labour Standards Board.
In support of the dismissals, Allied argued that in the
maintenance industry, the theft of a client's property, even of
little value, constitutes a serious fault and could cause
significant prejudice to the employer's business and lead to
the loss of the contract with the client. Furthermore, the
employees worked the night shift, where a higher degree of trust
and loyalty were expected.
As such, Allied has a "zero-tolerance" policy with
respect to theft by an employee. Furthermore, Allied submitted that
the video footage constituted direct and unequivocal evidence of a
concerted theft by the employees of several cans of soda and that
no further investigation was needed.
However, the evidence presented at the hearing clearly painted a
different picture. Indeed, a representative from the soda company
confirmed that the money in the vending machine corresponded fairly
closely to the number of cans missing. Furthermore, the agent
confirmed that the machine was defective and cans of soda would
occasionally get stuck in the machine or not be released at all.
Also, the machine would occasionally release more than one can of
soda at a time. This situation was also corroborated by the
The Board concluded that Allied had not attempted to obtain the
employees' version of the incidents nor did it take any steps
to examine the vending machines before proceeding with the
dismissal of the employees.
In light of this, the Board concluded that Allied had reacted
prematurely, without conducting a complete investigation into the
suspected acts of theft. As such, Allied failed to demonstrate that
the employees were terminated for a good and sufficient cause.
This case serves as a reminder to employers to act diligently
before proceeding with the dismissal of an employee. In cases of
suspected theft, fraud or other serious misconduct, an employer
should always conduct an impartial and complete investigation of
the incident. In the context of such investigation, the accused
employee should be given the opportunity to provide his version of
the facts. In such circumstances, it may be appropriate to impose
an administrative suspension on the employee pending the
outcome of the investigation.
Once the investigation is completed, the employer must determine
if it has compelling and serious evidence of the alleged misconduct
before imposing a disciplinary measure, particularly a dismissal,
which constitutes the ultimate sanction.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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