A company was justified in firing a married manager who had an affair with a junior employee in breach of the company’s policy that required employees in a romantic relationship to notify their immediate superior.
Bryan Reichard worked for Kuntz Electroplating from 1984 to 2008. He became a purchasing coordinator in 2003 and a purchasing manager in 2007. Between 2003 and 2008 he had an affair with Ms. Thompson, who was a 26-year-old administrative assistant when the relationship began. At the time he was 41 and married.
In 2005, Kuntz established a written non-fraternization policy at work to protect employees from sexual harassment and any perception of favouritism. The reporting provision was intended to allow the company to take steps to eliminate or minimize any potential conflict of interest if two employees were romantically involved. Because he was in a position of power, Reichard had the primary obligation to report in this situation.
Over the years there were many rumours about the affair, but when confronted by his superiors on several occasions Reichard denied any involvement with Thompson. He also confirmed that he understood the terms of the Non Fraternization Policy.
In early 2008, he confided in Anne Dawson (another of his subordinate employees) about the problems in his personal life including his marriage and his relationship with Thompson with whom he had fathered an infant son. Dawson reported the matter to Reichard’s immediate supervisor Robert Kuntz Jr.
When confronted by Kuntz Jr., Reichard finally admitted to the affair. He was suspended and told not to return to the factory unless he was contacted by someone from the company. Unbeknown to his supervisor, in direct contravention of the order he came back to his office on two occasions over the next few days.
Initially company leaders considered taking only disciplinary measures, but they ultimately decided the totality of Riechard’s actions undermined their fundamental trust in him, and he was dismissed for cause.
The court found Riechard’s misconduct including taking flagrant long lunches with Thompson and recommending her for a transfer to his department was compounded significantly by his deliberate and continuous lying to the company and disobeying orders.
On December 15, 2011 Mr. Justice James Sloan ruled that Kuntz had every right to consider that Reichard’s willful actions seriously called into question the trust, integrity and honesty required for him to perform his duties as the purchasing manager. As a result, his behaviour was sufficient for the company to terminate him for cause and his claim for wrongful dismissal was dismissed.
Clearly, romantic relationships were not forbidden by Kuntz, and Reichard was not fired because of his workplace affair. He lost his job because of his blatant breach of the company’s policy to report and repeated lying to his superiors.
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