If you lie to an employer during hiring, you can be fired. Shouldn’t that apply to Trudeau too?
James Courtright had a secret and wanted it to remain just that. It was an embarrassing truth that he hoped would never see the light of day.
He was under police investigation for influence peddling. This fact was particularly hazardous given that he was, at the time, seeking a job as a lawyer for Canadian Pacific in a position involving regulatory work.
He got the job. Some time later, he was formally charged. When he advised his employer, he was fired.
In a wrongful dismissal case, Courtright argued that he didn’t think there was anything to the investigation and furthermore he didn’t lie during the interview — the company never asked about his legal difficulties. But it’s difficult to ask about a secret that has been successfully concealed. That is why it is called a secret.
Alain Cornell had a similar problem when he applied for a sales supervisor position at Rogers Communications Inc. He chose not to disclose a medical condition that might have impacted the company’s decision to hire him. On top of that, he lied about virtually every aspect of his resume.
Cornell was fired for unrelated reasons, but in a wrongful dismissal case in which I represented Rogers, the court found that the company had just cause for Cornell’s termination because of both the nondisclosure and the misrepresentations.
Canadian courts have determined that when you apply for a job, you must be honest. If you have a secret that could impact on your suitability for employment, or that might be material to your employer and choose to conceal it, that is cause for termination.
If you apply for a clerical position claiming to be a Masters chess champion when you have never played the game, the company will likely not succeed in firing you for lying. But if you are applying for a job as CEO, the same lie would be cause for termination because integrity is fundamental to a senior executive’s role.
There is an emerging theme in employment law that conduct that damages a company’s brand can be cause for termination. When Philip Kelly was charged by the police for watching child pornography in the privacy of his own home — he was never convicted — he was fired by his employer, Linamar Corp., because the potential for media coverage would damage its brand. The court agreed.
What is true for professors and CEOs is doubly so for a country’s leader.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has admitted that he deliberately concealed having worn black face when he was screened to run for the Liberal party and ever since, all while building a brand of diversity, enlightenment and respect for others.
Part of the “woke” culture that Trudeau represents is a propensity to sanctimoniously attack and then summarily dismiss those who do not agree with its tenets. Liberal MPs and candidates, despite claims of innocence, have been banished without recourse for all kinds of allegations. Apologies and defences got them nowhere.
Trudeau now seeks the forgiveness that he has consistently refused to grant others.
Every one of the components of his brand: feminism, aboriginal reconciliation and now anti-racism, have been exposed as duplicitous hypocrisy.
All of this would be a problem for Trudeau in the corporate realm. If a corporate CEO set strong standards against racism or sexual harassment and then behaved in ways that belied that standard, the court would be quick to hold them accountable.
There is no question that Trudeau’s failure to disclose that he wore blackface, particularly given the standards he has himself established, would be cause for termination if he was an executive of a Canadian corporation.
Will voters have the same view as our judiciary?
Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces.The most recent of his six books is War Stories from the Workplace: Columns by Howard Levitt.