Dismissal of employee justified for personal use of employer's telephone system during working hours

May 22, 2012

On March 13, 2012, the Superior Court of Quebec rejected the union’s Motion for Judicial Review following an arbitration decision which confirmed an employer’s decision to terminate an employee for having used the company’s telephone system for personal use.

The employee, a receptionist working for Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq) (the Employer) for over 10 years, was dismissed for cause following an investigation which confirmed that the employee made several local and long distance telephone calls during his hours of work, using the Employer’s telephone system and, at the Employer’s expense.

The union filed a grievance on the employee’s behalf and invoked the principle of progressive discipline considering the employee’s clean employee file. The union argued that the employee’s actions did not constitute a serious fault and that the dismissal was imposed because the employee refused to cooperate during the investigation process.

The Employer argued that given that the employee is in a position where he is not directly supervised and is given a lot of autonomy, it is even more important that it be able to maintain a high level of trust in the employee. The Employer maintained that it dismissed the employee for cause as a result of the employee’s breach of his duty of loyalty, for using the Employer’s telephone system for personal use, for theft of company time and for having lied during the investigation process.

The arbitrator decided that the employee had committed a serious fault, that his actions resulted in the irreparable rupture of the relationship of trust between the employee and the Employer and that the decision of the Employer to immediately dismiss the employee for having used the Employer’s telephone system during his working hours without authorization or justification was justified.

This decision serves as a reminder to employees that the improper use of an employer’s property and theft of time can result in the immediate termination of an employee’s employment for cause without regard to the principle of progressive discipline.

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