A group of Canadian Tire employees in B.C. found out the hard way that petty theft from an employer is sufficient grounds to be fired, with no compensation for years of service.
An internal investigation found that the long-time employees had scammed the company’s customer parking reimbursement policy, which compensates customers who pay to park while they shop.
The company discovered that some of the store’s cashiers were paying out janitors for parking receipts they had found in the parking lot — for an amount currently worth $2.25 at one location — over the course of a year.
Human resources consultant Cissy Pau says the case is a reminder that theft, no matter how petty, is often cause to breach the trust between an employer and staff.
“It’s less about the dollar value and it’s more about trust,” said Pau.
“If [employees] irreparably harm that employment relationship, sometimes you just need to cut those ties.”
The group denied that they stole from the company. They said they were fired without cause and their boss Ross Saito, the Canadian Tire franchise holder, should have compensated them for length of service.
But the B.C. Employment Standards Tribunal sided with Saito, upholding a previous decision from the director of employment standards and dismissing an appeal from the group.
The location of the Canadian Tire was not specified.
Cashiers deny allegations
According to the decision, Canadian Tire fired the employees — Leonila Gaspar, Daria Najera, Erlinda Phan, Jane Simon and Nida Villahermosa — in July 2016 after an internal investigation found that they, along with other staff, “had engaged in an improper parking ticket reimbursement scheme.”
At some locations, Canadian Tire customers who pay for more than $15 in goods are compensated for parking costs for their first hour of shopping, amounting to a $2.25 reimbursement.
Janitors led a scam of that policy, the decision says, when they collected parking receipts from the customer lot and asked the cashiers to reimburse them — occasionally offering a cut in the deal.
After Canadian Tire fired them, some of the employees, most of whom had worked for the company for more than 11 years, filed complaints with the director of employment standards.
The employees denied the allegations. They argued Canadian Tire fired them without cause, which would require the company to compensate them for each year they worked there.
The decision says the cashiers never denied reimbursing the janitors, but they argued they only did so “a few times, once to twice” and only when the janitors showed them a valid receipt for merchandise.
But the B.C. employment standards branch investigation sided with Canadian Tire.
“The totality of the evidence strongly suggests each of the appellant cashiers voluntarily participated in the scheme knowing it was dishonest,” wrote tribunal member David B. Stevenson.
The theft, according to the tribunal, was enough reason for the company to fire the employees with cause.
Pau, the human resources consultant, agrees with the argument, in principle.
“Theft of one or two dollars, over the course of a year, that can be significant,” Pau said. “If they can do something like this, what’s to say they won’t do something when there’s bigger dollar values involved?”
Pau said that allowing the employees to stay could set a bad precedent with the rest of the staff.
Still, she said she advises companies not to take a for-cause employee termination lightly.
“It’s always the last resort,” she said.
Neither the employees nor Canadian Tire could be reached for comment.