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Operating Private Business During Working Hours Proper Cause for Discharge
January 4, 2006

An arbitrator has upheld the dismissal of an employee who ran his own travel agency business during his employer’s working hours.

The grievor had 15 years’ seniority and worked in the mail room. His employer, Telus, dismissed him after discovering he had been running a travel agency business while at work using the employer’s email and internet access, fax machine and telephones. The employer had a well-known policy prohibiting the use of its facilities and equipment for an employee’s personal use unless previously authorized.

At arbitration, the grievor argued that he had attempted to confine his private business to his lunch hour and coffee breaks. He also maintained that he had been able to complete his assigned work, despite the time he spent operating his private business.

The arbitrator concluded that for a period of approximately 10 months the grievor had spent almost a quarter of his work day on his own business affairs, giving less priority to his employer’s business. The grievor’s testimony revealed he did not understand that the use of the company’s facilities for his personal business was a serious infraction, regardless of whether it was conducted on his break time.

The arbitrator held that, absent exceptional circumstances, the illicit use of an employer’s time and facilities without permission will warrant discharge. Further, the grievor’s lack of candour during the employer’s investigation and the arbitration hearing outweighed his long record of discipline free service. Accordingly, the grievor’s discharge was upheld and the grievance was dismissed.

Telus Communications Inc. v. Telecommunications Workers Union (Madsen Grievance); 2005] C.L.A.D. No. 385