Termination for Incompetence is a Difficult task to Prove

Date: 2006
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro
All-star Sales Manager, Jack Bogden didn’t know what to think. He had been a paradigm of achievement for Purolator Courier Ltd. and was praised by those who worked with him. But for Bogden’s boss, Pat Capparelli, the proof was in the pudding. Confusing excellence with mediocrity, Caparelli’s opinion of Bogden was nothing more than inconsistent. But when the Judge heard all the evidence, Caparelli was the only one that was found erratic.
Bogden, who was the company’s sales manager for all of Alberta, had everything going his way. But when Pat Capparelli was introduced as his boss, his life was suddenly ripe with confusion. Capparelli would give Bogden an excellent performance evaluation and then, without any apparent reason, he would view Bogden’s performance as mediocre.
Capparelli criticized Bogden for not having a “hands-on approach” with the team — and then he praised him for improving. Bogden was constantly applauded by his boss, and then jeered. To add to Bogden’s bewilderment, he was invited to Purolator’s awards dinner and received seven awards for being one of the company’s top performers. However, that very same night, Capparelli handed him a very negative performance evaluation.
A few months later, Capparelli dismissed Bogden and based the decision on Bogden’s alleged incompetence. Bogden asked for a letter of reference, but he was refused. As a result, Bogden was unable to find a job and suffered depression, hypertension and anxiety.
Bodgen then sued the company for wrongful dismissal. At trial, the judge found that Bogden was given a number of contradictory messages that led him to believe his performance was improving. In short, Bogden was not incompetent. Rather, Caparelli had an aggressive and confrontational management style, which the judge found demonstrated spitefulness and a shockingly complete lack of consideration.
When it comes to firing an employee for incompetence, many employers are ignorant of what the law actually says. In Purolator’s case, Pat Caparelli’s mistaken view of Bogden’s incompetence cost the company more than a valuable and high-flying employee — it cost them $100,000.
In order to establish an employee’s incompetence as grounds for dismissal, an employer needs more than mere dissatisfaction with the employee; real incompetence must be proven. So if one day you happen find yourself in Jack Bogden’s shoes, rest assured because the following four points must first be shown in order to ensure that the dismissal was proper:

  • The employer communicated the level of performance required of you;
  • Suitable instruction was given to you;
  • You were incapable of meeting the required level of performance; and
  • Warnings were given that failure to improve would result in dismissal.