Drink on an airplane

Was RIM justified in firing its drunken executives?

Norman Grosman|

When an employee is fired “for cause” an employer may dismiss that employee without notice, pay in lieu of notice or providing a severance package. An individual may also incur difficulty in obtaining employment insurance (“EI”) benefits. The financial and emotional burden of being terminated for cause is serious and you should be aware of your recourse as an employee.

On November 29, 2011 an Air Canada flight on route from Toronto to Beijing had to divert to Vancouver as a result of the drunken and unruly conduct of two executives of the infamous Waterloo Ontario telecommunication giant, Research In Motion. After a physical altercation that took place mid-flight the two plead guilty to one charge each of mischief, were ordered to pay approximately $72,000 in restitution and terminated from their employment without notice. The two men now find themselves rationalizing the justification for their former employer’s decision to terminate their employment. A statement from RIM provided: RIM expects that its employees conduct themselves in a manner reflective of our strong principles and standards of business behaviour.

While a scenario such as this may seem straightforward, it presents an opportunity to consider when an employer has cause to terminate one’s employment.

As provided in the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in R. v. Arthurs, Ex p. Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co., allegations of cause often arise when the employee is found:

guilty of serious misconduct, habitual neglect of duty, incompetence, or conduct incompatible with his duties, or prejudicial to the employer’s business, or if he has been guilty of wilful disobedience to the employer’s orders in a matter of substance. Employees must remember however, that there is recourse to allegations of cause that may enable them to obtain financial compensation in situations where their previous employer’s rationale for termination is not justified.

The courts analyze issues of “cause” through what is known as a contextual analysis. With that said, a serious single transgression may not always lead to termination.

However, it is important for employees to keep in mind that the workplace can often extend beyond the physical location of your primary headquarters and that it is best to watch your behaviour when indulging in an alcoholic beverage or two on a business flight.

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Norman Grosman tackles your employment law dilemmas regularly on Workopolis. More information about him and his legal services can be found on his website grosman.com


Category: Employment Law,