Can Employees Be Fired For Carrying On Office Romances?
Does your company have a policy against romance in the workplace? Have you ever wondered if the policy would be enforceable at law?
In Bryan Reichard (the “Employee”) v. Kuntz Electroplating Inc. (the “Employer”) the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the Employer was entitled to dismiss its long term Employee without notice when it discovered that the Employee had been concealing an office romance, contrary to an office policy that required disclosure to senior management of all such relationships.
The Employee had worked for the Employer for almost 25 years and had risen to the position of Purchasing Manager and was otherwise an exemplary employee. However, in 2003, at the age of 41, he began an office romance with Ms. Thompson, a 26 year old administrative assistant. Both parties concealed the relationship from their co-workers and management.
In 2005, the Employer had adopted a written “non-fraternization policy” which required all employees involved in a romantic relationship with another employee to notify their supervisor. The Employee not only failed to disclose his relationship, but he also vehemently denied it when confronted by management after rumours began circulating among staff. Not surprisingly, the Employee’s habit of taking long “lunches” with Ms. Thompson, giving her glowing employee performance reports, and promoting her over other employees raised suspicions.
When the Employee finally confessed to a co-worker, who then informed management, the Employee was summarily dismissed. The Employee then sued the Employer for wrongful dismissal, claiming his indiscretion did not warrant summary dismissal after 24 years of otherwise exemplary service. The court disagreed and found that the Employee’s wilful misconduct “called into question the trust, integrity and honesty” required for him to perform his duties as a manager and that lack of trust was sufficient to terminate him without notice.
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