The Ontario Superior Court has released a decision, Chopra v. Easy Plastic Containers Limited
(Chopra), in which a cumulative series of acts of
misconduct by an employee were found justify his termination for
cause. The decision provides a useful precedent for employers
seeking to rely on repeated incidents of misconduct or poor
performance to establish just cause for an employee's
Chopra involved a shift supervisor who, over the course
of roughly two years, was disciplined on a number of occasions for
a variety of incidents including poor performance, serious
misconduct, insubordination, incompetence, breach of company rules
and conduct that was prejudicial to the employer's business.
The employee's specific acts included, among other things,
knowingly allowing unauthorized persons to enter restricted areas,
allowing employees under his supervision to leave the premises
without punching their time cards, falling asleep on the job, and
refusing to wear personal protective equipment. Each of these
incidents was documented by the employer and Mr. Chopra was
provided with a series of verbal or written warnings in relation to
his misconduct. During this time period, Mr. Chopra made complaints
about safety conditions at the workplace to the Ministry of Labour
which prompted site visits. He also reported to the employer that
he was being harassed by his co-workers, prompting an internal
In or around this time, an employee reported to management that
Mr. Chopra had asked him to help "build a case" against
those he was accusing of harassment. The employee refused to do so
as he had not witnessed such behavior. Three employees also
reported to management that Mr. Chopra had told them that a
Ministry of Labour representative investigating the workplace was a
"rat" who was being paid off by the employer.
Following these reports, the employer made the decision to
terminate Mr. Chopra for just cause, stating in its termination
letter that he had conspired to make false allegations, engaged in
harassing behaviour against senior management, made slanderous
comments and created a poisonous work environment. Mr. Chopra then
brought an action for wrongful dismissal, arguing that the employer
did not have just cause and that his termination was a reprisal for
bringing his complaint to the Ministry of Labour.
The court ultimately held that the various incidents of
misconduct and poor performance at issue fell well below any
reasonable standard of care. The court further found that the
employer had given Mr. Chopra ample verbal and written warnings of
its dissatisfaction with his performance and every opportunity to
improve. In addition, Mr. Chopra's problematic behavior was
well documented by the employer and he was told he was required to
correct it. Taken together, the cumulative incidents of misconduct
were "not minor or trifling" and affected the workplace
as a whole. The court held that Mr. Chopra's performance,
insubordination and misconduct amounted to enough
"bricks" to constitute a "just cause wall." The
action against the employer was therefore dismissed.
Circumstances of accumulated misconduct can pose a challenge to
employers because the incidents, taken in isolation, are often
viewed as insufficient on their own to meet the high threshold of
termination for cause. This case, however, demonstrates that where
acts of misconduct or poor performance are documented by the
employer, and followed by repeated warnings and failures to
improve, the accumulation of such incidents may be sufficient to
justify termination for cause.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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