A recent New Brunswick case found that the employer was justified in firing a manager after he engaged in a secret relationship with an employee for over a year and hid it from the employer.

What Happened?

The manager had worked for the employer, an asset management company, since at least 2002.

On May 29, 2017, the manager met with the employer, at which time he was informed he was being dismissed without cause. At the time of his dismissal, he was the regional manager.

The employer claimed that it had learned that the manager had been involved in a sexual relationship with an employee and that neither had advised the employer as they were required to do. As a result, the employer conducted an investigation which confirmed the existence of the relationship. The employer cited the manager’s conduct, which included:

  • engaging in a relationship with the employee whom he was obliged to supervise;
  • giving advice to the employer based on his desire to benefit the employee;
  • giving advice to the employee based on inside information about future events;
  • failing to report the situation to the employer as he was required to do;
  • continuing to supervise the employee for more than a year while engaged in the relationship; and
  • lying to the employer when questioned about the relationship.

The employer stated that it provided the manager with a termination letter at the time of his dismissal, which set out the reasons for his dismissal. However, the manager did not take the letter with him after the meeting and subsequently told the employer not to send the letter to him.

The manager brought a claim seeking damages for wrongful dismissal. The employer brought a motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim.

Decision

The court began by reviewing principles found in jurisprudence relating to the issue of just cause:

“In summary, to determine if an employer has just cause to dismiss an employee, the trier of fact should ask two questions: In the circumstances of this case, (1) does the evidence establish employee misconduct on a balance of probabilities; and (2) if so, does the nature and degree of the misconduct warrant dismissal “because it gave rise to a breakdown in the employment relationship”; for example, did the misconduct violate “an essential condition of the employment contract, breach the faith inherent to the work relationship, or is fundamentally or directly inconsistent with the employee’s obligations to his or her employer.” […] I would add another example; “repudiation” in the context of an employee’s refusal to accept the employment relationship as valid.”

The court found that the evidence in the case established misconduct and that the nature and degree of misconduct warranted dismissal. It found that the manager made decisions based on his feelings for the employee and that those decisions had an impact on the employer’s business. The court stated that if the manager had informed his superiors, they could have tailored their decisions in light of his disclosure but he chose not to do so. Further, the court found that the emails between the manager and the employee demonstrated that he knew that what he was doing was wrong and could have serious consequences, but he continued to do so for over a year.

The employer claimed that, as a result, it no longer had confidence in the manager and no longer trusted him. The court found that this amounted to a breakdown in the employment relationship.

As a result, the court concluded that the employer had cause for dismissing the manager and granted summary judgement in favour of the employer.

For Help

The Kitchener-Waterloo employment lawyers at Petker Campbell Postnikoff have many years of experience advising non-unionized employees and employers on a variety of workplace issues, including harassment and termination. Our team will walk you through the details of your dispute, advise you on your rights, responsibilities and obligations, and help you understand your options. If your dispute cannot be settled through negotiation, we can represent you through mediation and the court process.

We represent clients throughout southern Ontario, including the communities of Cambridge, Guelph, Elmira, Brantford, Fergus, Elora and the surrounding area. Call 519-886-1204 or contact us online for a consultation.