Threshold for dismissal for code of conduct violation

Does a specific code of conduct lower the bar for dismissal if code is violated?
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/29/2013

Question: If an employer has a specific code of conduct that prohibits certain behaviour, is there a lower bar for dismissal rather than other forms of discipline for violations of the code?

Answer: The bar may seem lower in a sense, but if the employer is being precise in its communications to its employees, it would not characterize the situation in those terms. A better way to put it is that while the bar for dismissal remains at the same level, the employees have been put on notice that the specific behaviour shall be viewed as serious enough to reach that bar. This is a subtle distinction, yet in employment law terms, it is an important one.

The bar for summary dismissal is a high one for employers to meet and little can be done to lower it. However, an employer has the ability to create reasonable rules to regulate its workplace and the right to expect that its employees obey reasonable orders in matters of substance. For example, rules requiring safe operations or refraining from conflicts of interest are regarded as being fundamentally important to employers. In many cases, violation of such rules can be considered serious enough to constitute a repudiation of the employment contract.