In a recent decision[1], the COMMISSION DES RELATIONS DU TRAVAIL (hereinafter the "C.R.T.") emphasized the jurisprudential criteria permitting a sanction for non-compliance with company policy.

In this case, the employer had dismissed an auditor because he had not complied with the car-rental policy and had tried to hide that fact.

According to the evidence, the complainant had been given an assignment in Miami for several months’ time. Before leaving, he and certain other employees attended an orientation session where they were told they had to use Budget’s "mini-lease" plan for car rentals longer than 30 days, and that the reservation had to be made through American Express. Furthermore, they could only use Budget and Hertz for car rentals.

The complainant therefore contacted American Express to rent a car, but the agent was unfamiliar with Budget’s "mini-lease" plan. Upon arriving in Miami, the complainant decided, after talking to some colleagues, to arrange for successive 30-day rentals with Budget and Hertz.

It was when the rental car was vandalized that the employer realized the complainant had made successive 30-day rentals with Budget and Hertz.

The C.R.T. pointed out that non-compliance with an employer’s policy can only be sanctioned if the policy is clear, unequivocal and reasonable. It must also be brought to the employee’s attention, be uniformly applied without discrimination, and the employee must be informed of the consequences of non-compliance.

The C.R.T. found that, in this case, the policy was unclear, was misunderstood by both the employees and management, and that the employer was lax in applying it. Thus, there was a custom in the company permitting successive 30-day rentals. Other employees who had worked in the U.S. had rented their cars like the complainant had without being sanctioned.

Furthermore, all of the complainant’s expense reports, backed up by itemized car-rental documents, had been approved by the employer, which never advised the complainant that he was not following the company’s car-rental policy.

The C.R.T. concluded that the complainant could not be reproached for his actions and that he had not acted out of malice or with premeditation.

As for the accusation of having tried to hide his deviation from the policy, the C.R.T. found that the employer had conducted a botched, superficial and frivolous investigation, from which it could in no way deduce that the employee had attempted to hide his non-compliance with the policy.