British Columbia

Costco wins firing fight against ex-staffer accused of swearing at customer

The former employee had claimed he was fired without just cause.

Former employee had claimed he was fired without just cause

Costco has won a lengthy fight with a former employee who alleged he was fired without just cause in 2016. The wholesaler had accused the man of swearing at a customer in July of that year. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

A former Costco employee accused of verbally abusing a customer will not be compensated for what he argues was an unfair firing.

Jason Jeffrey lost his job as a tire installer after his bosses heard he told a woman to "f--k off" and "go f--k yourself" while she was in a B.C. outlet of the supermarket with her children in July 2016.

He later described the woman as a "bitch" when his managers asked him to explain his behaviour, according to a decision filed by the B.C. Employment Standards Tribunal this month. 

Jeffrey was a tire installer at Costco before he was fired. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Jeffrey filed a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch a few months after he was fired, claiming he never swore in front of the customer and "blaming" her for any conflict.

He admitted to calling her a bitch, but said it was his "clumsy" way of explaining that the customer created an "unpleasant situation" that he "did not respond to very well."

An ESB delegate agreed with Jeffrey's version of events and ordered Costco pay him almost $9,000 in compensation in February 2017.

Costco, however, appealed that order a month later and won — which means they won't need to pay Jeffrey a dime for the firing.

'Uncooperative' history

Jeffrey's pattern of behaviour at work was key to the tribunal's ruling in Coscto's favour.

It noted that he had an "underlying, somewhat pervasive, level of intemperate, petulant, and uncooperative behaviour" and that he'd had the chance to change.

The ruling said the delegate who initially ordered Costco to pay Jeffrey didn't consider the staffer's pattern of behaviour. If he had, he may have ruled differently.

A history of poor behaviour and previous warnings is crucial in determining whether or not an employer had just cause to fire someone, whereas a one-off instance of swearing at a customer might not be enough.

In the appeal, the tribunal found Jeffrey had a decent chance to meet Costco's standards and failed, knowing that "could or would" lead to him losing his job.

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