As the Supreme Court of Canada reminded us in 1997 in its decision in Wallace v. United Grain Growers Ltd:
Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his/her sense of identity, self-worth and emotional wellbeing.
Thus, for most people, work is one of the defining features of their lives. Accordingly, any change in a person’s employment status is bound to have far-reaching repercussions.
On Wednesday morning of this week, four Ceridian employees were attacked at knife point and injured by a former employee. The tragic circumstances at Ceridian are a stark reminder for all of us not to be cavalier with respect to the termination of employment relationships. Regardless of what was the impetus for the four assaults, we must always be mindful that the employment relationship and the relationships formed between employees at a workplace are fundamental to a person’s sense of self-worth. When those relationships end suddenly, in some but fortunately the rarest of circumstances, it can lead to tragic results.
Employers not only have statutory obligations in respect of the health, safety and protection of their employees under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, there are of course ethical and common sense obligations to ensure that workplace circumstances do not escalate into physical and violent attacks. Before undertaking a termination of any employee, have a professional plan of action in place to ensure that the event goes smoothly and, if not, that no one is left exposed to any potential dangerous aftermath.
We must be mindful to always:
- Be sensitive and fair in any termination circumstance;
- Act in concert with others in order to avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable situation;
- Be conscious of clues which might indicate the escalation of a situation;
- Ensure that there is proper security of your premises and an emergency plan for your employees;
- Contact the police at the first indication of a problem.