Last month, The Advocates' Quarterly published an article by Paul Willetts entitled "Tagg Industries v. Rieder: Is Storing Pornography on a Work-Issued Laptop Cause for Dismissal". The article looks at some of the lessons for employers coming from this case when asserting cause for dismissal. In particular, employers should ensure that: the misconduct relied upon for cause dismissal reflects an irreparable breach of trust; they can prove their assertion of cause (i.e. lead concrete evidence); the reasons for cause are communicated to the employee in a clear and contemporaneous fashion.
In addition, the Rieder decision is important as it provides guidance to employers on a number of other issues. These range from how to properly calculate an applicable reasonable notice period to the importance of carefully-drafted, and enforceable, employment agreements.
With respect to the central issue at dispute in the Rieder decision, Willetts’ addresses the idea that an employee storing pornography on a work-issued device may not alone be sufficient to establish cause for dismissal. However, as with most cause dismissals, context is key. The result in this case should not be seen as an indication that an employer can never fire for cause where an employee improperly uses a company asset to store pornography. Rather, the outcome will depend on a number of factors such as the role of the employee within the organization, the nature of the industry and the nature of the material in question.
Vey Willetts LLP is an Ottawa-based employment and labour law boutique that provides timely, cost-effective and practical legal advice to help employees and employers resolve workplace issues in Ottawa and across Ontario.