A drink at lunch doesn’t breach ‘vague’ zero tolerance policy: Court

Alcohol on employee’s breath at meeting launches months of allegations and vague threats against him — and $48,000 in wrongful dismissal damages
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

Employees who drink on the job can be a serious problem for employers that should be addressed promptly. However, like all instances of employee misconduct, the employer has an obligation to investigate properly so it knows as much of the facts as possible so it can determine its course of action. And in most instances of misconduct investigation and determining just cause for dismissal, hearsay won’t cut it.

It’s also important for employers to make sure employees know when something is specifically prohibited. A policy banning certain behaviours by employees is all fine and good, but it isn’t worth much if employees aren’t told about it -- especially if the policy is a zero-tolerance one.

An Ontario employer’s vague policy and unsubstantiated allegations were not enough to constitute just cause to dismiss an employee for drinking on the job, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled.