Legal News

Honesty: The Touchstone of the Employment Relationship: BC Labour Relations Board

In a September 25, 2003 decision, the BC Labour Relations Board has reaffirmed the longstanding principle that honesty is the touchstone of any employment relationship. The Board’s decision dealt with an appeal under section 99 of the Labour Relations Code of an arbitration award in which arbitrator Christopher Sullivan reinstated an employee who had been dismissed for two incidents of horseplay and a physical altercation with co-workers.

The issues before the arbitrator were a three day suspension for involvement in the horseplay incident, and dismissal for the physical altercation. The arbitrator upheld the three day suspension but found the penalty of dismissal was excessive in the circumstances. He substituted a lengthy suspension for the termination, and reinstated the grievor to employment. In arriving at this result, the arbitrator considered a number of mitigating factors. He found that the misconduct was a “momentary flare up”, not part of a “premeditated campaign”, and was motivated by a misunderstanding of shop practice and frustration on the part of the employee. The arbitrator also considered the fact that no one was hurt in the incident.

However, the arbitrator found on the evidence that the grievor had been less than forthright during the arbitration hearing, had sought to minimize his culpability and was “not believable” on key matters in dispute. The arbitrator relied on these findings to justify a lengthy suspension.

On appeal, the Labour Relations Board held that the arbitrator had failed to provide a reasoned analysis on the issue of whether the employment relationship could be restored in light of the employee’s dishonesty before the arbitration board. The matter was remitted to the arbitrator with directions to provide the parties with a reasoned analysis on the effect of the finding of dishonesty on the viability of the employment relationship.

This decision is significant in that it confirms that honesty remains an important and essential feature of the employment relationship. The case stands for the proposition that dishonesty in and of itself, is a form of misconduct which may be relied on to support discipline.

Harris & Company acted as counsel for the successful employer.

Brewers ‘Distributor Ltd. and Brewery, Winery and Distillery Workers Union, Local 300, BCLRB No. B313/2000 (September 25, 2003)