Workplace Theft and Dishonesty
What is workplace theft and dishonesty?
Workplace theft and dishonesty may be more prevalent than it seems. It could include more obvious examples like taking money from the cash register or helping yourself to your employer's product. It could also include conduct that you might not consider so severe, such as taking a questionable sick day, punching out a bit too late (i.e. "time theft"), or taking home office supplies. In some cases, it may include failing to report certain conduct, such as co-workers' theft. As with all types of misconduct, theft and dishonesty can occur in different degrees of severity.
Does my duty of honesty require me to report misconduct to my employer?
That depends on your position. Some employees may have an active duty to report information to the employer which may be relevant to the employer's interests. Those employees are known as "fiduciary employees" and may include very senior managers, executives, or those who are the public face of the company.
Lower-level employees, on the other hand, only have the most basic duties of loyalty and honesty, without any specific duty to report wrongdoing. For instance, if you are employed as a server and you witness your co-worker being rude to a customer, you may have no specific duty to report the incident.
Does intention matter?
Yes. Courts appreciate the fact that "dishonesty" and "theft" are different than accidentally omitting information or forgetting to clock out at the end of your shift.
Is dishonesty "just cause" for termination?
There was, some years ago, a school of thought in Canadian employment law that any dishonesty would be grounds for termination. That has since changed. Courts now examine all instances of dishonesty in context to determine whether the conduct was incompatible with the ongoing employment relationship. If the dishonesty is relatively minor or the court considers there to be certain mitigating factors, then it may not support a termination for cause.
What should I do if I am being investigated for theft or dishonesty?
First, immediately contact a qualified employment lawyer for advice on your specific situation; how you handle the investigation may be just as important as the misconduct itself. Second, cooperate with the investigation. Your silence or non-cooperation can and will be held against you by your employer. If you have been caught red-handed, sometimes the best course of action is to own up to the misconduct and show remorse, rather than attempting to cover it up.
What can I do if I have been terminated for theft or dishonesty?
If you have been terminated for workplace theft or dishonesty, we highly recommend you contact a qualified employment lawyer who can help you determine whether you have a cause of action for wrongful dismissal against your former employer.
When considering legal action, remember that you have a presumptive right to reasonable notice of termination or pay in lieu thereof. If you have been terminated for cause, your employer will need to prove so in court. It may be, for instance, that you were terminated based on mere suspicion or conjecture, which is unlikely to hold up under judicial scrutiny.
What can Hyde HR Law do for me?
The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts on the legal and practical considerations surrounding workplace theft or dishonesty. If you are being investigated or have been terminated for theft or dishonesty, we have the expertise to advise you as to the strength of your case, guide you while you are under investigation, and represent you in subsequent wrongful dismissal proceedings. We have negotiated settlements on behalf of countless clients who have been terminated for workplace theft and dishonesty. Contact us today.