Construction North - 2013 - (Page 15)

F e a t u r e THeFT in the Workplace C an you terminate for theft in the workplace? The standard rule for theft in the workplace has historically been that if you steal, you are fired. The basic reason for that rule is that trust has long been considered the most important aspect of the employee/employer relationship and when an employee steals, that trust is shattered. The rule has been eroded in recent years, with courts and arbitrators considering the circumstances of the theft and the circumstances of the employee. There is no formula for what exactly is considered but courts will look at things such as length of service, if the employee has shown remorse, if the employee has taken responsibility and if the theft was pre-mediated. It is important to remember that theft involves more than what we traditionally think of as theft, when the workplace is involved. There are positive acts of theft, like someone stealing copper wire from the warehouse, there are acts of theft by omission, like someone allowing a relative to go through the grocery check-out without ringing through an item, there is time theft, like someone surfing the web all day while he/she is being paid to work. There are also instances such as inflating the time worked on the time sheet, which has become increasingly common. The more removed the “theft” is from actual money, the less inclined employees are to consider the act theft. Additionally, employees will rationalize such acts by saying things like “everyone does it” or “the company doesn’t pay very much and this makes up for it.” The more this kind of behaviour is tolerated, the more it spreads. Employers can mitigate against this behaviour by having things like an Honour Policy, A Code of Conduct Policy and a Zero Tolerance for Theft Policy. In the grocery industries, it is common practice to have a zero-tolerance policy for theft. Employees are all made aware of the policy on an annual basis and it is generally posted in locations that are readily seen. On this basis, arbitrators and courts will uphold the discharge of employees for theft, even when the theft is not premediated, the amount is trivial, and the employee has a spotless record. The more removed the “theft” is from actual money, the less inclined employees are to consider the act theft. Another small thing that employers can do, at least in relation to fraudulent time sheets, is a line on a time sheet that says something like “I confirm that I have worked the time above and that putting in for time I have not worked is dishonest and is in fact fraud.” Studies have been done that show that this By Kathleen Stokes, LLB Weaver Simmons Barristers, Solicitors, Notaries simple line on a form will virtually eliminate employees falsifying their time. Employees who are reminded of the importance of honesty will seldom deviate from that principle around the time of the reminder. In the circumstance of a theft occurring in your workplace, it is still important for the employer to do an investigation. As an employer, you will be required to prove on the balance of probabilities that a theft occurred and that the employee you have identified is guilty of the theft. An investigation will involve talking to the suspected individual, as well as any witnesses and assessing the quality of the evidence they provide (including witness statements and video surveillance). If you determine it has occurred and the employee in question is responsible, you then have to determine a penalty. In coming to this conclusion, importance will be given by the courts as to whether or not the employee admits the conduct and is remorseful and whether or not the theft was premediated. Courts and arbitrators will also look at the employee’s personal circumstances such as financial hardship, marital issues or disability. In a unionized setting, an arbitrator can reinstate and courts can award high damages if the mitigating factors are significant enough. This can be a costly exercise, so it is important to do the investigation and the follow up properly and to remember that termination is no longer automatic in matters of theft in the workplace. ❑ Construction North 2013 • 15

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Construction North - 2013

Executive Director's Report
President's Report
Waiting for Funding
High Powered: PowerTel's 60 Years in the High Voltage Industry
Message from the Mayor of the City of Greater Sudbury
Theft in the Workplace
COCA Report
Building the Road to Prosperity: Investing in Infrastructure in Northern Ontario
2013 Annual Meeting Report
2013 Membership Report
Entertainment Report

Construction North - 2013