Cumulative Misconduct Incidents Culminate in Cause for Termination

A worker who had accumulated a series of incidents and warnings against conduct unbecoming and poor performance, was dismissed for cause, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided in Chopra v Easy Plastic Containers Limited.

Facts of the case

Munish Chopra worked as a blender/labourer with Easy Plastic Containers Limited. On March 2, 2002, Chopra went to India to marry and was told before he left that he would be terminated after two weeks, but if the same position were available when he returned from India, Easy might rehire him. The company had a policy to limit vacation of new employees to two weeks.

Upon his return, on June 11, 2002, Chopra was rehired at the position he had held earlier, at the same hourly rate, and they gave him a new employee number. In July 2005, he was promoted to shift supervisor.

While Chopra worked for Easy Plastic, the employer dealt with numerous incidents of misconduct and performance issues through progressive discipline policy.
Chopra allowed an unauthorized person to enter a restricted workshop and use equipment, knowing it was only to be used by authorized persons. Chopra received a written warning letter in connection with this incident.

While acting as Shift Supervisor, Chopra allowed three employees to leave the Easy premises for approximately one hour without punching their time cards and failed to report the incident to his supervisor. Chopra received a written warning.

Also in his capacity as Shift Supervisor, he approved a full skid of product with labels missing. Chopra’s responsibility was to ensure that skids were appropriately labelled. Chopra received a written warning.

A female co-worker complained that Chopra had winked at her on several occasions and had touched her hand. Chopra denied this conduct. He was given a verbal warning.

Chopra fell asleep during a shift. At a meeting with management, Chopra admitted falling asleep, indicating he was tired and found it difficult to work the midnight shift. He received a formal letter placing him on the day shift so the employer could monitor him. Chopra made numerous complaints about health and safety and the workplace and harassment during his time at Easy Plastics. He alleged a supervisor called him “dog”. He complained that two moulding machines were unsafe, leading to Ministry of Labour investigations and orders to write policies or procedures on maintenance, repair, lock-out/tag-out, forklifts and pump-up trucks, and skid moving and storing; provide additional training and instruction to maintenance staff; and fix the metal stairs to the machine.

In another health and safety complaint, Chopra said Easy had not provided him with appropriate gloves for handling chemicals; had asked him to do a two-person job alone; and had unsafe cleaning practices.

Chopra received a third written warning after failing to adjust a moulding machine as directed, resulting in two hours of bottle production being destroyed.

The employer suspended Chopra for ignoring a supervisor’s repeated instructions to wear a face mask, as required.

Chopra complained to his family doctor that he was being harassed at work and that it had been going on for 3-4 years but it had recently been getting worse. Dr. Price prescribed him trazadone. Chopra also told Dr. Price his employers, the company owner and manager were teasing him and trying to get him to quit. Dr. Price suggested he consider filing a claim with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Unaware of the different workplace incidents and warnings, Dr. Price believed that Chopra suffered from a major depressive episode due to employer harassment and provided treatment to that effect.

Another co-worker alleged that Chopra tried to convince him to corroborate the harassment claim against Easy. The employer reported the employee’s allegation in writing.

Chopra allegedly told co-workers that the Ministry of Labour representative was a “rat” and that he had been paid by Easy not to find any wrongdoing on its part with respect to Chopra’s complaints to the Ministry of Labour. These co-workers singed a written statement to that affect.

These cumulative incidents led the employer to dismiss Chopra for cause on May 22, 2009.

The termination letter stated:

“Your attempts to engage these coworkers … has created a poisoned work environment and shows a clear lack of judgment on your part and failure to act in a manner which is reasonable both towards your co-workers and as an employee of Easy Plastics.

“…you are accusing Easy Plastics of committing a crime and violating the provisions of the Health and Safety Act. Since these allegations are completely without merit, you have further created a poisoned work environment and have breached your duty of care to your employer.

You further refer to Mr. Adrian David, the Ministry Official, as a ‘rat’.

All of your actions taken together have caused management to conclude that it can no longer continue to employ you.”

The employee sued for wrongful dismissal and argued there was no just cause for the termination. He sought aggravated and punitive damages in addition to general damages due to suffering mental distress, embarrassment, damaged self-esteem and depression. He also argued that the termination was a reprisal for bringing legitimate health and safety concerns to the attention of the Ministry of Labour.

Easy submits that it had just cause to terminate Chopra’s employment and, accordingly, he is not entitled to any damages.


The court found the employer’s evidence was much more credible, and it was corroborated by a number of witnesses.

Chopra’s assertions that his termination was in essence a reprisal for bringing legitimate health and safety concerns to the attention of the Ontario Ministry of Labour contrary to s. 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act were vigorously contradicted by a number of witnesses.

Easy Plastic could show that the incidents and warnings used to justify the termination really did occur due to conduct, poor performance and policy breaches from Chopra. The company had evidence of a series of concerns with the employee’s performance, including allowing an unauthorized person to enter a restricted area; permitting three employees to leave work for one hour without punching their time card; approving a full skid of product that had labels missing; winking at a female employee and touching her hand; falling asleep during his shift; failing to wear a required face mask; attempting to engage co-workers against the company; and spreading rumours about the MOL inspector.

Easy gave Chopra a number of opportunities to correct and rectify the bad behaviour and poor performance after every incident. In addition, the incidents and warnings were well-documented.

The court added:

“Chopra’s behaviour fell below any reasonable standard of conduct. The cumulative incidents were not minor or trifling. They affected the workplace as a whole.”

Easy Plastic did try to investigate Chopra’s health and safety complaints. The employer even removed him from working with the supervisor he was complaining about. Unfortunately, Chopra was the one who did not follow company instructions and rules.

The incidents might not have been enough on their own, but together they constituted cause for the termination.

As Echlin J. stated it in Daley: “The conclusion that must be drawn in this instance is that the series of acts cumulatively do amount to enough ‘bricks to constitute a just cause wall. In my view there were sufficient bricks here to constitute a just cause wall.’”

What can we take from this case?

The lesson here is to follow Easy Plastic’s example and have a progressive discipline policy to handle employee bad behaviour and poor performance. Employers should deal with problematic conduct and poor performance as soon as they happen. They should Investigate and apply appropriate discipline in proportion with the proven misconduct. And most important, document everything!

Further, when complaints are made regarding health and safety issues, take them seriously, investigate, document and respond appropriately.


  1. Good documentation on the employer’s part really seems to have helped. One wonders though if this wasn’t a case where the employer would have been better off terminating what seemed to be a problematic employee without cause at an earlier date, rather than continue to document behavior which would ultimately give it cause. As it is they ended up with a poisoned work environment and the costs of litigation.

  2. I agree with your conclusion James… however this case speaks to the fact that it is better to err on the side of caution and not act to quickly!