Fired for Saying No

Aug 17, 2010

In a recent case from Vancouver, a woman was fired for refusing to attend an afternoon staff meeting after working the nightshift.  An article published by Tom Zytaruk in The Financial Post provides some details about the case.
Diane Giles was scheduled to finish her shift at 8 a.m. and was asked to stay in order to attend a meeting scheduled for noon.  Giles contended that, “if she had attended the meeting, she would have had to work all night, stay awake all day, attend the meeting and then go back to work and go without sleep for two days.” Newly appointed program manager, Shauna Baylis, admitted that the meetings were previously scheduled for 9:30 a.m., but that she was unaware of Giles’ scheduling issues.  After informing her manager of her concerns, Giles was told that her schedule was “irrelevant”, and that she needed to attend the meeting.  She didn’t.
Although insubordination can be grounds for immediate dismissal, an employee can still refuse to comply with clear instructions or policies with a reasonable excuse. Judge Valmond Romily noted that, “the circumstances of this isolated act of disobedience…should have required a greater attempt at reasonable accommodation”, “rather than the extreme resolution of dismissal for cause.”
Acts of insubordination can often feel personal, and employers may be tempted to fire otherwise unsuitable employees, using the incident as an excuse.  Courts do not look kindly upon this behaviour, especially if the incident did not significantly affect the relationship between the employer and employee.

  • Having legally compliant dismissal procedures in place will improve your ability to deal with difficult situations.
  • Make sure that new staff is educated on Employment Standards regulations and company policy.  Managerial requests that do not comply with regulations can lead to costly issues down the road, and the potential for constructive dismissal claims.

Overall, remember, one isolated act of disobedience does not always substantiate cause for dismissal.

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