Employers must use progressive discipline before summarily dismissing an employee for misconduct, thereby not owing to the employee any severance payment. There is an exception, however, for acts of severe misconduct. Such misconduct must be fundamental to the employment relationship, to the extent that the employer can no longer trust the employee to fulfill his/her duties. This is illustrated in the case of De Jesus v. Linamar Holdings Inc. ONCA, 2017.
In the case, Mr. De Jesus was employed as a Production Supervisor with over 19 years of service at Linamar Holdings. De Jesus was dismissed after having lied to his employer about a series of incidents that had let go over 1500 defective camshafts being undetected. De Jesus failed to have his team perform the required number of checks and then failed to act when the issue was brought to his attention. When asked, De Jesus lied to his employer, has denied any knowledge of defective camshafts and the failure of his team to fulfill adequate checks. The trial judge ruled that De Jesus’ failure to perform his duties and his subsequent dishonesty warranted the summary dismissal (i.e. dismissal without notice). Overall, the misconduct here struck a fundamental aspect of De Jesus’ employment, that being his duty to hold line workers accountable and respond to the reports of defective camshafts. The fact that De Jesus lied about this after-the-fact rendered him untrustworthy and therefore unemployable in relation to his duties as a Production Supervisor.
When deciding to dismiss an employee for an act of misconduct without prior warning, employers must consider the entire context of the situation. If the misconduct does not strike a fundamental aspect of the employment relationship as it relates to the employee’s duties and responsibilities, a summary dismissal can prove costly. In the case above, a wrongful dismissal for a senior employee with nearly 20 years experience could lead to damages worth well over an entire year of the employee’s earnings. It is always advisable to seek the opinion of an employment lawyer when faced with such a scenario.