Bizarre Lunchroom Video Stunt Lands Dismissal: Employer’s Safety Reputation Prejudiced

It is rare that the facts of a dismissal case are so bizarre as to be shocking, but this is such a case.  The grievor, an elevator mechanic, was dismissed after a video posted on the Internet showing him with his genitals exposed and his scrotum being stapled to a wooden plank came to his employer’s attention.

The grievor was working on a large office building new construction project.    He and his co-workers often discussed a television show called “Jackass” that involved young men who got rich recording themselves doing stupid things.

A foreman on the project suggested that another employee staple his scrotum to something, and the grievor then agreed to do it if the employee collected enough money.  Word spread throughout the project, and $100.00 was collected.  The grievor then had his scrotum stapled to a board, with about 14 or 15 people watching in the lunchroom during the work day.  The grievor knew that the incident was being recorded on video.  He collected the $100.00.  The video ended up on the Internet.  The video became notorious among general contractors and others in the construction industry.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board upheld the dismissal of the grievor.  The OLRB said that the employer had “demonstrated a real prejudice to its reputation as a safety conscious elevator contractor with a highly skilled and competent workforce.  In my view, an elevator contractor that is believed to tolerate pranks and horseplay in the workplace is at significant risk of having its business reputation damaged.”  The OLRB also noted that an “escalating pattern of pranks and horesplay can lead to even more dangerous stunts in a workplace where an employer and its employees must always be safety conscious.”

This decision demonstrates that employers in safety-sensitive industries such as construction and mining, are entitled to take strong disciplinary action to protect their reputation for safety – particularly where the employees’ offending conduct becomes notorious.

The decision may be read at http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onlrb/doc/2011/2011canlii46582/2011canlii46582.html

Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

Full bio