Termination for Cause – Employer’s Duty to Investigate
Employers are required to conduct an investigation into the nature of the allegations and should interview not only the individual making the complaint, but also the employee’s superiors, co-workers and, most importantly, the accused employee.
Considering the seriousness of terminating an employee for cause, there is an obligation on the part of the employer to conduct a thorough and appropriate investigation into all allegations against its employees. These allegations include, but are not limited to, theft, fraud, or sexual harassment.
Employers are required to conduct an investigation into the nature of the allegations and should interview not only the individual making the complaint, but also the employee’s superiors, co-workers and, most importantly, the accused employee. There is a legal obligation to allow the accused employee to respond to any allegations of wrongdoing. Failure to include the accused employee in any investigation could result in a termination for cause being overturned in court. Furthermore, the investigation must be adequate and the findings must be consistent to justify a termination for cause.
In Murrell v. Burns International Security Services Ltd. (1994), 5 C.C.E.L. (2d) 123 (Ont. Gen. Div.), the Plaintiff was alleged to have committed sexual harassment in the workplace and was terminated for cause as a result. The court determined that the Plaintiff was wrongfully dismissed because there was no justification to terminate the Plaintiff after an investigation occurred, “as that matter was investigated and dealt with. Rivenbark did not find it a reason to justify dismissal then and since there has been no repetition of the impugned conduct, it cannot now be deemed to be cause for dismissal.” In fact, the Plaintiff was warned and the employer found no evidence of any sexual harassment in the investigation. As the employer failed to provide for an appropriate resolution to the allegations and instead terminated the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff was awarded a termination package.
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