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Failure to investigate employee’s story leads to finding of wrongful dismissal

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Manufacturing

In Tymko v. 4-D Warner Enterprises Ltd., 2018 BCSC 372, the BC Supreme Court ruled on a wrongful dismissal case arising out of a train derailment. The defendant alleged the plaintiff, a switchman, did not properly clear the tracks. The plaintiff claimed he did not receive appropriate training on what to do in the particular situation that led to the derailment.

Part of the plaintiff's story was that his radio must not have been working as the driver did not respond to his verbal cues to stop the train. The defendant alleged the plaintiff manufactured this excuse to cover up his neglect of duties.

The trial judge expressed reservations about the plaintiff's version of events, but found that the defendant's failure to investigate this ‘important claim’ must result in the plaintiff being given the benefit of the doubt.

Decisions stressing the importance of thorough investigations are legion. This particular case reinforces the need to follow up on all elements of witnesses’ recollections as soon as possible, particularly where there is a critical incident. Failure to do so may result in the employee being given credit because they may not be in a reasonable position to prove their version of events at a later date.