Employee harassing co-worker or customer outside of work

How much jurisdiction or liability does an employer have over an employee harassing another employee outside work?
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 03/19/2014

QUESTION: How much jurisdiction or liability does an employer have over an employee harassing another employee outside of the workplace? What about an employee who harasses a customer outside of the workplace?

ANSWER: It is often suggested that an employer has no jurisdiction over the off-duty conduct of its employees. However, this is far from accurate. There are many examples of discipline being imposed and upheld for off-duty conduct.

In the arbitral context, it has been said that, if off-duty misconduct has a “real and material connection to the workplace,” it falls within an employer’s disciplinary reach: Ottawa-Carleton District School Board v. O.S.S.T.F., District 25. An early decision — Millhaven Fibres Ltd. — established that such a connection likely exists where the conduct: harms the company’s reputation or product; renders the employee unable to perform her duties satisfactorily; leads to refusal, reluctance or inability of the other employees to work with him; constitutes a serious breach of the Criminal Code and is injurious to the general reputation of the company and its employees; or makes it difficult for the employer to properly manage its operations and direct its workforce.