What Amounts to Cause for Dismissal?
It is rare for an employer to successfully argue that an employee was dismissed for cause. For example, insubordination is normally the subject of progressive discipline and therefore one act of insubordination would usually be insufficient to amount to cause. Dishonesty involving theft can often amount to cause but the Supreme Court of Canada requires that it be looked at in the context in which it occurred. However, most employers are not willing to keep an employee who has demonstrated dishonesty in the workplace and such behaviour usually results in a loss of employment with the only question being whether the employer has to provide pay in lieu of notice.
The amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to violence in the workplace and harassment, which were implemented in June of 2010, make it clear that this behaviour is unacceptable in all workplaces and is contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This is a new approach to cause for termination.
A discussion of cause must also include references to intoxication whether by alcohol or drugs. These are usually safety violations in the workplace and would not be tolerated by employers. However, if they occur by reason of an addiction suffered by the employee, then the employer must do its best to accommodate that disability. This of course requires a determination as to whether there is an addiction or whether this is as a result of poor judgment.
Cause can also be demonstrated by an employer where an employee is continually disciplined but fails to heed the disciplinary measures imposed and continues with the behaviour. Progressive discipline and warnings are meant to demonstrate to the employee that continued behaviour will result in greater discipline leading to termination unless the behaviour is corrected. Employers now maintain records of such discipline, especially in circumstances where the behaviour can be classified as unsafe.