A recent decision in British Columbia has
found post-termination evidence of just cause for
dishonesty discovered in an investigation of an employee that
occurred following his termination.
The plaintiff in this case was responsible for managing the
company's day-to-day finances and its administrative
staff. The Plaintiff had 40 years of experience as an
accountant and had worked at the Defendant company for 14 years. By
the end of his tenure he was earning $60 000 a year. The
Plaintiff had been issued a 'gas card' to use for
company business during his employment. The Plaintiff's
boss learned that he had also been using the gas card for his
recently separated wife's car. When asked about this improper
use he replied honestly and admitted the fact and
added "...but I haven't had a raise in four
After conducting a quick investigation, the employer found
that the Plaintiff had also been submitting medical expenses for
his separated wife contrary to the insurer's policy. Without
revealing this, the employer asked the Plaintiff whether there
were any outstanding accounting issues he wanted to disclose
– the Plaintiff said "no." He was then
terminated without notice because of the inappropriate use of the
gas card and medical insurance.
Post-termination, the employer conducted a review of files and
records associated with the Plaintiff. This investigation revealed
evidence of the Plaintiff making two unauthorized salary advances
of $500 each and numerous account errors resulting in substantial
financial losses and a significant downward adjustment to the
company's inventory valuation.
At trial, the judge found that although it could be proven that
the plaintiff had misused the gas card and violated the
company's medical insurance policy, the level of dishonesty in
these two incidents did not warrant dismissal. It was a
misunderstanding about the extent of 'personal use' for the
gas card and a misinterpretation of the insurance policy for
spouses rather than purely intentional dishonesty.
However, the evidence found post-termination was found to
amount to just cause warranting dismissal without notice. The
Court concluded that not only were these acts conducted with
intentional dishonesty, the Plaintiff was dishonest when he failed
to mention them when he was given one last chance to admit any
accounting errors before his termination. This dishonest
acted discovered post termination gave just cause to terminate
the Plaintiff's employment.
The take away for employers is that one dishonest act may be a
sign of other more surreptitious ones lurking in the closet. After
an employee has been terminated it is always useful to review their
conduct prior to termination to identify any additional acts of
misconduct that may not have been known when the decision to
terminate has been made. This may include reviews of business
records, employee e-mails on company computers or other areas of
the business the employee was involved with. Additional
post-termination evidence could provide a stronger basis
for substantiating a termination than the ones that the
original decision was based on, as was the case here.
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