Threshold for dismissal after employee theft

Dismissal not always automatic
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/11/2019

Question: If an employee is found to have committed theft of the employer’s property, is there a standard as to the value of the stolen property or number of incidences that meet the threshold for dismissal without other discipline?

Answer: Theft is one of the most aggravating forms of misconduct an employee can engage in. Theft implies deliberate intention to wrongfully take something that belongs to another. It is often referred to as a cardinal sin which goes straight to the foundation of trust necessary to maintain an employer-employee relationship. Historically, theft was viewed by arbitrators and courts as a repudiation of the employment contract and establishing theft could justify immediate termination of employment for cause.

Today, however, arbitrators and courts use a contextual approach to determine whether just cause for dismissal exists when employee theft is discovered. Similar to the analysis required when discipline is being considered for other types of misconduct, each employee theft case must be assessed on its own merits; and the nature and circumstances of the employee’s conduct must be weighed against possible sanctions: see McKinley v. BC Tel. Discipline must always be proportional to the employee’s conduct. Consequently, theft is no longer an automatic ground to terminate the employment relationship.