Employee termination after a criminal conviction


Deborah Howden Head ShotA recent decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court underscores the fact that unless an employee’s off-duty conduct has direct implications on the workplace or the employer’s business, it does not constitute just cause for dismissal, says Toronto employment lawyer Deborah Howden.

"However if you're in a front-line or public position and your continued presence could damage an employer's reputation or workplace morale, that's a different scenario," says Howden, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP's Toronto office.

The B.C. case involved a long-serving firefighter who was fired from his position after being charged with impaired driving while he was off duty. The court found he was not, in fact, properly fired for just case, she says.

"The takeaway is the courts are not just going to look at potential harm to the employer’s reputation," Howden tells "They're going to consider a list of factors — for example does that off-duty conduct render the employee incapable of performing the workplace duties?"

She says employers should cautiously proceed when presented with this type of situation and take steps to conduct a proper investigation before taking significant corrective action.

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