Is Being Drunk at a Work Conference Serious Misconduct?

Mar 31, 2016

A recent court of appeal case in Australia found that an insurance company did not have cause when it terminated a broker for his drunken antics. The broker had attended drunk to a professional conference. He was loud and boisterous throughout the day, throwing sweets at other attendees. His employer terminated him for cause due to his behaviour.  The court found termination with no notice or pay in lieu thereof was too grave a punishment.

Serious Misconduct

Like Australia, Ontario judges will consider the seriousness of the conduct in assessing whether an employer has just cause to terminate an employee.  Typically, the behavior must be quite severe and go to the heart of the employment relationship.  The court will also look at the context. Is something occurring in the employee’s life to cause the behavior – for example a mental health crisis or death in the family. Generally speaking, it can be difficult for employers to prove just cause without previous warnings or discipline provided to the employee.

What if the Employer Did Not Have Just Cause?

If the courts find the employer was wrong to terminate for cause, the court will assess what damages are owed.  This follows the regular wrongful dismissal analysis. The court will assess whether there is an enforceable employment contract and termination clause and then consider the length of service, age, experience and education of the employee to determine the notice period. For more information about pay in lieu of notice and wrongful dismissal see here.

It is also possible that if a just cause termination involved drugs or alcohol, the employee may have an addiction.  To read more about addiction, mental health and human rights, see here.

What should employees do? 

Even if an employee did something wrong, the employer may not have just cause. Any employee terminated for cause should speak to an employment lawyer to better understand his rights and possible entitlements.

If you have been terminated, a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm would be happy to assist  you. Please contact us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.

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