When is Dismissal for Cause Legal in B.C.?
The purpose of this is to help understand dismissal for cause, an action taken by the employer to end the employment relationship.
In BC, an employer may terminate the employment of an employee for any reason at any time. However, there is an exception. An employer may not discriminate based on personal characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or source of income pursuant to section 13(1)(b)) of the Human Rights Code RSBC 1996, c 210 (the “HRC”).
What Dismissal of Cause Is and When Employers Use It
Dismissal for cause occurs when an employee is dismissed for a reason related to the employee’s conduct. In other words, when the behavior of an employee is viewed as inappropriate or outside the scope of their duties, an employer may dismiss the employee for cause.
Some examples of inappropriate conduct include bullying or harassment, verbal abuse, and aggression.
Likewise, misconduct, habitual neglect of duty, and incompetence are all examples of reasons an employer can dismiss for cause. If an employer is able to demonstrate cause, the employee may be dismissed without notice or compensation in lieu of notice.
The onus is on the employer to prove that dismissal of cause is justified:
However, the employer and not the employee must prove that they had sufficient reason to dismiss for cause. Notably, dismissal for cause can often be difficult for the employer to prove. Not all employee misconduct provides just cause.
Serious violations such as theft, fraud, dishonesty, assault or harassment, conflict of interest or wilful misconduct may require only one provable incident to justify dismissal without written notice or compensation for length of service.
However, please note that whether a single act of misconduct constitutes just cause is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Not all employee misconduct provides just cause:
Unsatisfactory performance or instances of minor misconduct such as absenteeism or tardiness do not normally relieve an employer of the requirement to give written notice or to pay compensation for length of service when terminating an employee.
Further, an employer must clearly set out its policies and practices and apply them consistently. If an employer has forgiven misconduct, or if it fails to take action at the time it occurs, it cannot later use that misconduct to prove just cause. In order to rely on serious misconduct as proof of just cause, the employer must dismiss the employee at the time, or within a reasonable amount of time after conducting an investigation.
Example: An employee is caught stealing money from the employer’s till. The employee explains that she needed to pay her child’s school fee, and that she intended to replace the money on the next payday. The employer decides not to terminate the employee. A month later, the employee is late for work two days in a row and is terminated. The employer cannot use the theft to prove just cause for terminating the employee.
In any given situation, it is debatable whether a scenario constitutes inappropriate behaviour.
Questions About British Columbia’s Laws?
Located in Coquitlam, at Spraggs Law we take pride in helping our clients resolve difficult employment-related legal matters. We also offer a straightforward fee arrangement and tailored service plan that’s based on each client’s specific requirements. If you find yourself in a difficult situation at work and have questions about your rights and options, we’d love to hear from you. Give our team a call at 604 359 1627 for a free consultation.