Public works foreman fired for unauthorized borrowing and repayment

Employee claimed it was common practice to borrow funds informally from local businessman and repay them with employer’s resources
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 05/23/2018

An Alberta First Nations band had just cause to terminate its public works manager for using the band’s resources to repay an informal loan with a local store owner, despite the manager’s claims it was common practice, an adjudicator has ruled.

Neal Potts was foreman in the public works department of the Samson Cree Nation, a First Nations band near Maskwacis, Alta. He was hired in 1975 and was responsible for a crew of 10 heavy equipment operators and truck drivers. The crew hauled material such as sand, gravel, and dirt, maintained roads, and picked up waste. As foreman, Potts’ job was to conduct morning safety meetings, assign tasks to the crew, and check on jobs in the field to ensure things were getting done. He also informed the public works manager of the crew's daily and weekly progress on various jobs.

Potts had received verbal warnings in the past, but records of this weren’t kept. A new public works manager who started in 2015 gave him a verbal warning about a failure to follow direction and spoke to him about not properly reporting his activities and playing cards with his crew during work hours. This led to a 10-day suspension on Aug. 12, 2015, and a discipline letter stating that “any further misconduct after the suspension will be termination without any reasonable severance notice.”