Dear Working Wise:
I have a problem employee. She is rude to my customers, she doesn’t follow the checklist of tasks that must be done every day, she plays the VLT machines instead of serving customers and she calls in sick a lot, but only on the weekends. Is this enough to fire her for “just cause” and not pay severance? Signed, Bothered Bar-owner
Employees have the right to quit and employers have the right to terminate employees.
But, these rights come with responsibilities. The most important one is providing adequate notice.
The length of notice depends on how long the employee has worked for you. In Alberta, the minimum notice required is: one-week’s notice for between three months and two years of service. Employees with two to four years of service are entitled to a minimum of two- weeks notice.
The notice period continues to increase with length of service. For a complete list of notice periods, visit www.employment.alberta.ca/es and click on the Termination of Employment and Temporary Layoff fact sheet.
You can choose to give termination pay in lieu of the notice period. Or a combination of written notice and pay is also acceptable. The employer must pay all wages, overtime, general holiday pay and vacation pay owed to the employee within three days following termination of employment.
There are a number of circumstances when an employer does not have to give notice or termination pay. These are circumstances of “just cause”. Examples include: willful misconduct, like theft or deliberately causing damage to the business; disobedience, like failure to comply with company policy; and deliberate neglect of duty, like not showing up or leaving without permission.
All of these circumstances must be shown to be not condoned by the employer. When an employer terminates someone for “just cause”, they need to have adequate documentation to back up the decision.
Documentation can include things like: details of meetings with the employee, copies of e-mails, letters of reprimand, or time sheets showing missed hours. It should also show a record that these issues were discussed with the employee and the employee is aware of the employer’s concerns.
When an employee is terminated for just cause, the employer still must pay all wages, overtime, general holiday pay and vacation pay owed to the employee within 10 days of termination.
Unfortunately, I can not give you a definitive answer to your question. Employers who terminate employees for cause risk paying expensive wrongful dismissal cases if they lack adequate proof.
A lot depends on how serious the misconduct has been, how many times it has happened and how well you’ve documented it.
To explore how strong your case is for just cause, you should seek legal advice. The Law Society of Alberta offers a free lawyer search service at: www.lawsocietyalberta.com.
For more information on employment standards related to Termination of Employment, visit www.employment.alberta.ca/es or call the toll-free Alberta Employment Standards phone line at 1-877-427-3731.
Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.