Employee who took company property should have been suspended, not fired: Board

Employee caught taking lumber said he thought it was scrap
|Canadian Employment Law Today

An Ontario company was too harsh when it fired an employee for taking some of its property he thought was scrap, the Ontario Arbitration Board has ruled.

Cleveland Range Ltd., a manufacturer and exporter of commercial cooking equipment in Concord, Ont., had been losing between $10,000 and $20,000 from theft of company property such as tools, supplies, scrap metal and wood by January 2007. It had a company rule that stipulated theft or attempted theft of company property is grounds for “immediate discharge.” New employees receive a copy of the rules as part of their orientation. In addition, it sent a letter to each employee saying anyone caught stealing would face “disciplinary action including termination” and criminal charges would be laid.

A 50-year-old employee worked as a stock receiver, often without supervision due to the size of the warehouse. He had no problems for almost two years he spent employed with Cleveland Range. Part of his job was to build skids with two-by-four boards the company bought in large amounts. The boards were stamped with a code that allowed Cleveland Range and the supplier to trace them if needed. The company also had a large container at the warehouse for recycling scrap lumber.