Call Us Now


Off Duty Conduct – High School Secretary Fired for Appearing in Adult Film

Posted On: January, 21 2015

It was recently reported that a Quebec school board had fired a high school secretary when a student at the school discovered that she had appeared in several adult films.

On April 8, 2011, the National Post reported that the secretary had 9 years of service with the school board and that she is considering legal action following her dismissal. Judging from letters-to-the-editor and comments on various news articles, Canadians appear to be divided on the issue of whether off-duty conduct can justify someone’s dismissal. Some take the view that if an employee’s off-duty conduct is legal, then it is none of the employer’s business and should not be grounds for dismissal. Others maintain that immoral off-duty conduct can justify terminating a person’s employment, especially when one works with vulnerable and impressionable young people.

From a legal standpoint, the relevance of an employee’s off-duty conduct depends on a number of different factors, such as whether the employee is unionized or not unionized, whether the off-duty conduct relates in some way to the person’s job duties, whether the off-duty conduct is illegal, whether the person has been convicted of an offence or merely accused of an offence, and so on and so forth.

Generally speaking, a non-unionized employee can be terminated for cause only if his or her off-duty conduct causes prejudice to the employer’s business or is not consistent with the employee’s work duties.

For example, where a person is dishonest with his or her employer about a medical condition, and the employer later discovers the truth of the person’s medical condition, there is no cause to terminate the employee. This is because there is no nexus between the employment duties and the dishonesty. In other words, where the person was dishonest about something that is personal and not related to their work, they generally cannot be dismissed for cause: McKinley v. BC Tel (2001), 200 D.L.R. (4th) 385 (S.C.C.).

However, some off-duty conduct is so outrageous that even if it has no connection to the person’s employment duties, and even if the employee is very highly regarded, discipline-free, and a top-performer, an employer may still be justified in dismissing that employee for cause. An example of this was seen in the Kelly v. Linamar Corp. decision where the plaintiff was a great performer who was subsequently convicted of possessing child pornography. The Court ruled that dismissal for after-acquired cause was justified in that case.

One issue the courts have emphasized in considering off-duty conduct is the nature of the employment. Where someone works in a setting where they have a great degree of responsibility and where people rely on them for advice and integrity (lawyers, investment advisors, senior management, etc.), off-duty dishonesty or disreputable conduct that may embarrass the employer can be a basis for just cause dismissal. In Whitehouse v. RBC Dominion Securities Inc. (2006), 50 C.C.E.L. (3d) 125, an employee’s dismissal for cause was upheld when it was revealed that he had brought a prostitute to his offices after work hours, had consumed alcohol in his office, and then lied about it to his superiors. In that case, the Court relied on factors such as the Plaintiff being responsible for $125,000,000 of capital, the fact that he was a Vice-President, and that he was one of the faces of the largest brokerage in Canada. In these circumstances, off-duty conduct was seen to be sufficient to justify dismissal for cause. .


Contact Us



  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by SB

    "I just wanted to let you know how happy I am with the outcome and how very grateful I am for the guidance and support that you and your team provided.
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Google user

    "Patrick James is really a great lawyer who is smart and great to deal with. He's been our litigation counsel for over 5 years on several different matters. Patrick recently gave our company great strategic advice that resulted in a big commercial litigation win for our company. He's fierce, tenacious, and really cares about getting the best outcome for his clients."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Google user

    "Patrick is a very good lawyer. He recently successfully defended a lawsuit against my company and has pursued several litigation claims for us in the past. All claims settled input favour. Mr. James is smart and quickly gives you great strategic advice. Patrick has been a real asset to our business."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Sandra L.

    "Andrew Wray and Patrick James recently helped settle a difficult situation for me and my family. The results were exactly what we were hoping for. They are honest, strategic and will provide you with the best advice for you and your financial situation. I highly recommend them to everyone I know."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Mark C.

    "Their team is highly focused and incredibly professional - from our experience it would be difficult not to believe that Pinto Wray James are one of Ontario's leading Firms in Labor and Employment law. The mindful client care and complete understanding of the case eased fears and the stress that comes with any legal dispute. Expect to find high level smartly crafted legal solutions at Pinto Wray James LLP - couldn't recommend more."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Sherry C.

    "Patrick is knowledgeable, strategic, supportive, and patient. His guidance and advice helped me to maintain focus and to keep things in perspective. His experience and keen perception provides him with an edge that allows him to assess the situation, the people involved, and to offer a strategic resolution that works best for all involved. If you ever require legal advice and assistance, I highly recommend him and his team. They will be there 100% for you."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Christian V.

    "Patrick is a fearless advocate for diverse clients. His strategic approach, and his empathy, are what set him apart as a litigator, and champion of the underdog."
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by A Google User

    "I have no hesitation recommending Andrew Wray of Pinto Wray James LLP. He provided me with legal advice regarding an employment law issue and his council was practical and honest. Andrew's approach is very much one of blending legal excellence with good common sense. An excellent lawyer!"
  • Rating: 5 Lawyer Toronto - 5 Star Reviews
    Pinto James Reviewed by Larry S.

    "Patrick listens to his clients and shows compassion, empathy and professionalism. He cares deeply that the individual that has been wrongfully terminated gets the best judgment available to him. I would not hesitate in recommending him to friends or family."