Q&A: Can I use after-acquired information to justify terminating for cause?

Nov 11, 2013

The Supreme Court of British Columbia: Kenneth Campbell
A recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia (2013 BCSC 1813 (CanLII)) held that an employer might be permitted to rely upon after-acquired information to justify terminating for cause.
His employer, Harrigan Rentals and Equipment, terminated the plaintiff, 69-year-old Kenneth Campbell. The employee was terminated after 14 years of service. On being terminated, Mr. Campbell brought a claim for wrongful dismissal.
The employee was terminated after it was discovered that he had used a company issued gas card to fill gas for his wife’s car and after it was discovered that he had submitted medical expenses on behalf of his spouse. The employee was told, in a letter, that these two discoveries were the reason for his termination.
Prior to trial, the employer discovered additional grounds to justify the termination. First, the employer found that Mr. Campbell had provided himself with salary advances without first disclosing this to his employer and without first obtaining authority to do so. Second, the employer found that Mr. Campbell had made several accounting errors regarding inventories.
After-Acquired Information Used to Justify Terminating for Cause
In reviewing the evidence, the judge found that neither the employee’s use of the gas card nor his submission of medical expenses justified termination. However, the judge found that the after-acquired information (the salary advancement and accounting errors) justified termination and denied Mr. Campbell’s claim for wrongful dismissal. This was the case even though the employer was not aware of the salary advancement or the accounting errors at the time of Mr. Campbell’s termination.
Thus, at least in B.C., if an employer discovers misconduct that it was not aware of at the time of termination, it may rely on this information to justify terminating for cause.
All situations are different, and the above is not to be taken in whole or in part as legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, feel free to contact the lawyers at Whitten & Lublin.

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