An employee who lies can create real frustration for an employer. Employers regularly regard conduct like this as justifying summary dismissal. But is lying actually a pressing reason for summary dismissal? Recent court decisions indicate that this topic should be approached with some care.
Lying about contacting a GP
The employee called in sick because of an inflamed eye. He said he could not get to his GP before the weekend. The employer smelled trouble and got in touch with the employee’s GP, who confirmed that the employee had not phoned. Worse still, he could have had an appointment that same day. The employer then asked the employee to hand over his call history, but the latter refused. This was just too much for the employer, who summarily dismissed the employee.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal held that to the extent that the employee had tried to delay his recovery by not calling his GP and lying about this, the employer should have suspended his wages. The mere fact that the employee had lied was admittedly culpable, but did not justify the immediate termination of his employment. The employer had accordingly drawn the short straw and ended up having to pay the employee a fair award of €4,000 in addition to the transition payment and compensation for failure to observe the period of notice.
Lying about a second job while off work sick
The employee was affected by complete employment disability for her work as a preventive care assistant. Her employer discovered, however, that she was still working in a virtually identical job at another dental practice. When the employer confronted her with this, she admitted it. The employee was summarily dismissed because, according to the employer, she had lied again at the meeting about her additional jobs and the extent of them. As the employee felt that there was now a breach of confidence, she reconciled herself to her employment coming to an end and asked for the award of a fair payment as well as the transition payment.
The Sub-District Court held that the employer had not asserted sufficient facts and circumstances to show that the employee had adamantly lied about her additional jobs. A less severe sanction than summary dismissal would have been enough. The Sub-District Court also held that the facts and circumstances were admittedly culpable, but were not so grave as to amount to serious culpability. Once again, the employer was on the losing end: the Sub-District Court awarded a fair payment of EUR 17,300 in addition to the transition payment.
Lying about business meetings
The employee had a job as a junior account manager for office and field services. During a meeting at work, the employee said he would be visiting a customer that afternoon. His diary confirmed that he had scheduled two customer visits. The employee left the office at around 2.30 p.m. Shortly afterwards, one of his colleagues saw that he was at home and told the employer, who summarily dismissed the employee.
The Sub-District Court held that it was established that the employee had lied to his employer. This justified summary dismissal, as the Sub-District Court took the view that the employer should simply be able to trust that a representative would attend the meetings listed in his diary, since it was difficult if not impossible to check whether the employee was actually doing this. So in this case, the summary dismissal was upheld.
Briefly, take care with the summary dismissal of lying employees. Even if the lies are proved, it will not always justify an immediate termination of the employment and a less severe sanction might be more appropriate.