Heat of the moment decision costly

One incident of insolent behaviour will not justify summary dismissal in most cases: court
By Todd Humber
|Canadian Employment Law Today

If there’s one rule for employers to remember when dismissing an employee, it might be this: One incident of insolent behaviour will not usually justify summary dismissal.

That knowledge would have come in handy for a supervisor at a New Brunswick body repair shop who fired an employee on the spot following a heated argument. The employee, Gerald Henry, sued for wrongful dismissal but lost his case before the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench. He appealed that decision and was recently awarded more than $14,000 in damages by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

Henry was hired by Foxco in 1993 as a body repair technician. He was 31 and was earning $31,200 per year when he was dismissed on Oct. 20, 2000. On that day he was asked to remove decals from two vans. While doing so, other employees asked him to assist with other projects and he complied. Later on his supervisor, Peter Graham, asked him about the progress of his work on the vans. A confrontation ensued. This is how the trial judge summarized Graham’s evidence: