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In the recent decision of Klonteig v. West Kelowna (District), 2018 BCSC 124, the BC Supreme determined that an employer could terminate employment based on off-duty conduct.

In this case the defendant was pulled over for suspicion of impaired driving.  In this case the defendant was an exemplary employee with no prior disciplinary incidents on his record. He was remorseful, but his employer determined that the best course of action was termination.

The court noted that off-duty conduct could give rise to a just cause for termination. In this case the defendant’s actions were prejudicial to the interests and reputation of the employer.

Different areas have different laws, but the fact is, everyone can make a mistake and many good managers have lost their jobs over criminal acts, social media, or even acts of their immediate family.

Explaining termination is never easy.

First – never play the blame game. This is the fastest way to end a job interview. Never make excuses or blame your previous boss, even if you were innocent, or your previous boss just used the event as an excuse to terminate your employment.

Second – never try to lie or hide the facts. It is quite possible that the job interview manager already knows that you were terminated, especially if it was I the news.

Third – Be honest about what happened. Keep it brief, and move on.

One good move is to bring it up before the interviewer asks. This gives lets you explain the problem on your terms without appearing to ignore or differ to the interviewer’s question.

Termination For Cause

This can be the hardest situation to handle. It is personal, and you may still feel remorse and guilt, or anger. Keep in mind that life is a journey. Termination for cause can be a learning experience.  It can be a turning point in your life, or career.

Wording is important. Summary Dismissal implies there was just cause for termination. Termination without cause may be the result of conflict of interest, breach of important rules or policies, performance issues, non-disclosure of an illness, absenteeism etc.

Your boss may also feel generous and list your off duty conduct as termination without cause. In this case, keep your information brief and to the point. End the conversation before the interviewer asks more questions.

Effects of Being Fired for Cause

Immediate job loss, often without compensation, and the humiliating march to the parking lot are only the tip of the ice burg.

If you work in a small industry where everyone knows everything then gossip can follow. Which is why it is important to get the issue cleaned up as soon as possible. Don’t dispute the termination unless you know the employer was at fault and can prove it.

Taking an employer to court makes you a high risk employee. To win you must show that you did not damage the employer’s reputation in any way. The burden of proof is on you.

Next Career Steps

The first smart step is to appear to be making changes. Having started to change is a great way to demonstrate that you have taken responsibility, and are working to make sure that it will never happen again. This can be difficult if your problem is criminal because you need to do it in a way that doesn’t indicate culpability.

If the job was short term then you may choose to leave it off your resume. This doesn’t mean that you can leave it out of the job interview. Most firms list ‘dishonesty’ as a reason for dismissal.

Many job interviewers will also ask if you have ever been fired or terminated. Again, it is best to bring the topic up before the interviewer does.

If your employer required that you stay with the firm to help mitigate damages then your willingness and hard work can go a long way to earning mercy from your next employer.  In some cases the company must keep the employer on to mitigate their financial and career damages. If this is the case it is best not to milk the opportunity.

If your contract demands that the employer keep you on for several months (constructive dismissal), then start looking for a job right away. Suggest to the interviewer that you are working to make things as ‘easy’ as possible for the previous employer.

Poisoned Work Places

We hope it never happens to us, but we may find ourselves in a situation of workplace bullying, harassment or be subjected to humiliation or degrading/discriminatory treatment. This can be a career killer. Remember that you need proof, not just what you feel, or what you suffered.

If you are in a poisoned workplace situation then the most important thing is to try and keep everything in print form, or emails. Complain regularly. You may not want to lose the job, but letting you go for complaining is Termination without cause.

You must give the company an opportunity to improve your situation. More important you must be amicable. You cannot demand your rights. You cannot act emotionally. You cannot use the opportunity to seek revenge. All of these will work against you when applying for your next job.

When you are in the job interview keep your recounting factual. Keep emotions out of your recounting. Do not lay blame. Highlight your efforts to improve the situation. And never, be the one to incite legal intervention.

Wrongful Dismissal/ Illegal Dismissal

This can be a trap that is easy to fall into. Our emotional reaction is to make sure the job interviewer understands that we were wronged. We may unconsciously try to get our ‘pound of flesh.’ The job interviewer is a captive audience.

My suggestion to management candidates is to write out your ‘speech’. Send it to a career coach or your recruiter to edit it. Then put it away for one week. Go over it again for toxic, angry, accusing tones. Then memorize it. When it is memorized repeat it over 50x. Two things will happen. First, you will be able to explain without emotions rising to the surface. Second, you will be able to state the facts even if the job interviewer is trying to provoke a reaction from you.


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