"To err is human; to forgive, divine."
Alexander Pope

"Doh"
Homer Simpson

A serious error doesn’t necessarily justify discipline. but refusing to accept blame can cost you your job.

This notion stems from the 2007 decision in McGachie v. Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre. In this case we learn about Martha McGachie. Her employment was characterized by a series of errors and when the mistakes mounted, she finally  wore out her welcome at the Victoria, B.C., Immigrant & Refugee Centre.

The final straw for the employer occurred when McGachie, a counselor of the centre for nearly five years, sent a document to the government agency funding its operations without first seeking approval from her supervisor. This was contrary to the centre’s standard policy. When the government agency reviewed the document, it realized the centre was providing services to some clients who were ineligible for funding. The agency thus clarified its policy and the centre was left unable to service a number of clients.

McGachie was then asked by her supervisor and the centre’s director to acknowledge her mistake in writing. She responded in writing, but instead of admitting the error, she characterized their request as a "new term of employment tantamount to a probationary period". McGachie was fired shortly after and responded by suing for wrongful dismissal.

The court found that McGachie’s dismissal was justified on the basis of her refusal to acknowledge the blame for the incident. Her error did warrant some form of discipline and the requirement to acknowledge the mistake was a reasonable request. On this basis, the court found that McGachie’s refusal to accept blame was deemed insubordination and was ultimately, what lost her her case.

Valuable insight for both employers and employees into the law of wrongful dismissal can be derived from Martha McGachie’s case:

  • It is not open to an employee to simply refuse to obey a direction from a superior. The decisive questions is, however, whether or not the request was reasonable.

  • A single mistake or even a series of consequential mistakes may not always convince the judge that the employee’s dismissal for cause is a necessary or proportional response.

  • Employee misconduct is not considered in isolation.

In McGachie’s case, the court agreed that by directing her to acknowledge her mistake in writing, the employer had acted sensibly. Furthermore, the results of this case were undoubtedly, influenced by McGachie’s employment history and the earlier mistakes she made.

Click here for the original article from Metro News

Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer specializing in the law of wrongful dismissal.  He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com or visit www.toronto-employmentlawyer.com