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Fired for Honest Mistake At Work?


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An employee at a manufacturing company with 5 years of service in a supervisory role was planning to take a vacation day to accommodate her moving into a new home. She mistakenly entered her name under the wrong day in the company vacation calendar and forgot to submit a mandatory vacation form. The employee was subsequently fired and was not able to find another job for a year and a half. An honest mistake that led to the employees dismissal was also compounded by her treatment by the supervisor and subsequent belief she was terminated.

When the employee did not show up at a departmental meeting on Friday, the department manager phoned the employee at home and when the employee explained that she was moving and had taken a vacation day, the manager hung up on her. The manager called back about an hour later and when the employee did not answer the phone, the manager left a rude message telling her not to come back to work. The manager continued to leave messages throughout the week suggesting the employee had been fired or laid off.

The employee, who believed she had been fired, never returned the calls and never returned to work. The Outcome: The issue that comes into play in this case is the duty of good faith and fair dealing that employers have towards employees at the time of termination. Where employers humiliate, mistreat or act unreasonably towards employees, they can be forced to pay additional damages. The employee took the company to court and in the reasons for judgment, the Court found that the employer had acted in bad faith by carrying out the employees dismissal as follows: Rather than communicating with the employee privately, the department manager terminated the employee in a message left on her home answering machine that could be heard by others in the home. The consequence of this is obvious. The department manager was abrupt, discourteous, rude and profane.

No matter what the supervisor should have been professional in dealing with the situation. The department manager intrinsically suggested that the employee had been “laid off". The judge believed this was done in the hope that the employee would agree to treat her termination as a layoff so that she would be owed less money.

(Surprisingly this ploy is used often by employers to try and reduce the possibility of a wrongful dismissal claim. ) The employer repeatedly made untrue allegations of the employees misconduct in her Record of Employment, which initially disqualified her for Employment Insurance; and Because of the allegations the employer continued to make up until the trial, the employee was discouraged from seeking a reference letter - which impacted her job search. Summary As a result of managements behaviour, the employee was awarded additional damages above and beyond what she would have received had the company acted more reasonably. If you are terminated from your job and feel that the termination may be wrongful or constructive dismissal you should then seek legal counsel and advice from an employment lawyer.

The Author is an associate with the law firm of Lecker and Associates Toronto Employment Lawyers, specializing in employment and business law. He has counseled both employees and employers extensively in employment law matters including wrongful dismissal , employment standards human rights, employment contracts, and disability claims. .


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