A recent case that’s getting a lot of media buzz involves 7-Eleven firing an employee of 27 years for breaching internal policy on the sale of tobacco to minors.
Beverly Salkeld was fired from her job as a counter clerk at 7-Eleven at the age of 52. She was an exemplary employee with a record of good behavior, until she was warned by her manager for neglecting to ID a 24 year-old man. Salkeld reviewed the video footage with her manager, and reluctantly signed a letter affirming that a further violation would result in her dismissal. After failing to ID a 21 year-old mystery shopper 6 months later, Salkeld was put on paid leave and then let go. The judge awarded her nearly $40,000. Here’s why…
Did Salkeld break the law?
- The “ID Zone” policy dictates that employees are to ID anyone who appears to be younger than 30 years of age (5 years more than liquor purchase at the LCBO).
- The Tobacco Control Act prohibits the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 18, federally, and 19, provincially.
Since both the customer and mystery shopper were of legal age, Salkeld did not break the law on the incidents in question. Allegedly, she breached company policy.
Why did she win the case if she breached policy? Is this really a wrongful dismissal?
The concern of the courts was the subjectivity involved in the judgment of who appears to be younger than 30. Given her exemplary record, the judge found it difficult to believe that, “the circumstances here were significantly serious to amount to a loss of trust and just cause when balanced against Ms. Salkeld’s lengthy … [adherence] to the ID Zone policy”.
What did 7-Eleven do that was so bad?
The company is right to ensure that tobacco policies are adhered to. Random inspections can result in costly fines and the loss of a license. However, to restate Justice Lori Spivak, 7-Eleven erred in that they failed to conduct a proper investigation to determine whether the punishment was representative of the crime. Salkeld was an employee with an otherwise unscathed employment history. Her manager should have examined less severe disciplinary actions before deciding upon dismissal for cause.