Skip to Content

Alberta Court of Appeal agrees that Syncrude had just cause to dismiss senior employee for sexual harassment

Jurisdiction: - Alberta
Sector: - Oil & Gas

In Clarke v Syncrude Canada Ltd, 2014 ABCA 362, the Alberta Court of Appeal agreed that Syncrude Canada Inc. had just cause to dismiss a 55 year old assistant comptroller who engaged in sexual harassment.

The appeal court summarized the former employee's misconduct and the company's response as follows:

[3]                  The facts are fully set out in the trial reasons, so only a brief summary of the facts is necessary here. Clarke began employment with Syncrude in 1983. When terminated in 2005, he was 55 years old, an assistant comptroller and Syncrude's key contact with its pension fund administrator.

[4]               At an annual dinner meeting with high-level representatives of Syncrude's pension fund administrator Clarke misbehaved. He slapped or grabbed one woman's buttocks during cocktails. At dinner, he placed his hand on the knee of another under the dinner table. Following dinner, Clarke pulled a third woman onto his lap. And in the lounge afterwards, Clarke made inappropriate comments to the women in attendance. Still later, during a taxi ride back to his hotel, Clarke put his hand on the thigh and under the skirt of one of the women. She tried to push him away told him to stop. Another woman sitting next to Clarke told him to leave the woman alone.

[5]               Apart from this series of events there had been no sexual harassment complaints against Clarke. His record of employment disclosed a reasonably satisfactory work record.

[6]               In March 2005, having been apprised of these occurrences, the senior vice-president of Syncrude's pension fund administrator asked Syncrude to remove Clarke as its key contact person. Syncrude initiated a formal disciplinary process that ultimately led to Clarke's termination. He commenced an action for wrongful dismissal.