Construction Conundrum

Once upon a time, there was a contractor. He spent a lot of his time with his small staff of 4, with about 70% of his time on the job sites and 30% of his time looking after the business and pursuing new business.

Because he wasn’t on the job site all the time, sometimes it fell to his most senior employee to look after things with the more junior crew.

One day his crew leader came to him and mentioned that some materials seemed to be going missing from the job site.

After some debate, they decided to install a camera to record what was going on. It soon became obvious after a few days that one of the workers, during clean up at the end of the day, was putting materials into the back of his truck.

The owner confronted the worker and an argument followed, resulting in the owner firing the worker for what he believed to be cause.

The issues:

  1. The company did not have a Closed Circuit Television Surveillance policy in place. Without a policy that informs the employees of video camera surveillance as well as a genuine purpose for doing so, you can not record them in the workplace.
  2. Without the CCTV policy, the recording could not be used to prove theft as the employer was invading the employees’ right to privacy.
  3. Without the recording, the employer could not establish just cause, which means the employee was owed termination pay.
  4. The employer did not have an employment contract, so the employee was entitled to common law notice rather than ESA minimums.

At the end of the day, the employer ended up settling with the employee for $37,000 and spent $16,000 in legal fees in the process.

Having the proper documentation in place goes a very long way. This employer could have avoided a lot of expense and stress if he had enforceable employment contracts and a CCTV policy in place.

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