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Swearing at your boss – not always cause for dismissal

Daniel Lublin | May 21, 2010

Have you ever wanted to tell your boss to F-off?  Were you worried it would cost you your job?

In a recent Saskatchewan case, the court was asked to consider this very question.

Having worked for the same ownership at Regina-based Image 1 Hair Team for 22 years, hair stylist Lenna Bohay was upset that the Salon was sold to a coworker, Kelly Brown.

Brown confronted Bohay after work and Bohay admitted to a profanity laced conversation.  Brown said she was told to “F-off”.

Bohay was fired, allegedly for cause, and not given any severance, so naturally, she sued.  In the recent court decision, the judge found that although Bohay swore at her boss, he dismissal without pay or a warning was not justified.

The court rules that, given the employee’s long service,  the employer “was required to provide a warning to the plaintiff that her behaviour must improve before she could be dismissed.”

In this week’s Metro News column, I discuss the case in more detail and provide the following takeaways for both employers and employees:

  • It is only the rarest misconduct, such as theft or dishonesty, that warrants dismissal without appropriate warnings.
  • Profanity and rudeness must be addressed by corrective discipline, which is a gradual series of warnings.
  • Consider mitigating circumstances.  Courts are more forgiving when misconduct is out of character.

Daniel A. Lublin is a partner with the employment law firm Whitten & Lublin LLP.  Dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com