Identifying Employee Misconduct

BC Public Service employees are expected to act responsibly and perform their assigned duties. They're expected to meet standards for attendance, performance, and behaviour. They must comply with the Oath of Employment and Standards of Conduct.

If an employee isn't meeting these standards, it's the responsibility of their supervisor to identify the issue, determine if the issue is culpable or non-culpable, and follow up with the employee in a timely and respectful manner.

An employee concern or difference of opinion on the interpretation of a workplace rule or policy shouldn't be addressed in the same manner as misconduct. Employees also have the right to refuse to perform a task that's illegal, unsafe, or contrary to legislation. Learn more with Refusing Unsafe Work.

For information on setting expectations and your role as a supervisor or manager, visit Managing Relationships with an Employee.

Identify Conduct Issues

Workplace issues may include:

  • Unacceptable attendance
  • Unsatisfactory performance
  • Inappropriate behaviour

Usually, it's easy to determine that an issue exists. It's not always easy to place the issue in a labour relations context. The issue may be a:

  • Minor culpable issue
  • Serious culpable issue
  • Non-culpable issue
  • Hybrid issue

Both culpable and non-culpable conduct undermine the employment relationship and must be addressed. However, the approach to each of these situations is different.


Culpable Issue

An employee’s unacceptable attendance, performance, or behaviour is culpable when the behaviour is intentional. In other words, the employee is at fault. The employee knows what's expected, is capable of meeting the expectations, but chooses not to do so. Discipline is only for culpable behaviour.

Examples of culpable issues may include: showing up late for work on a consistent basis, using personal social media accounts at inappropriate times during the workday, showing up to work under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, damaging or destroying government property, or stealing from a worksite.

Non-Culpable Issue

Non-culpable attendance, performance, or behaviour issues are not the fault of the employee. The employee knows what's expected, but isn't capable of meeting the expectations. Non-culpable misconduct requires a non-disciplinary response.

Examples of non-culpable issues may include: frequent absences due to a legitimate illness or injury or being unable to perform work satisfactorily due to a lack of skill or training.

For information related to employee health at work, visit Managing Employee Health Issues at Work.

Hybrid Issue

Sometimes the behaviour or performance issues results from a combination of culpable and non-culpable elements. These are referred to as hybrid cases. Hybrid cases are complex and will require assistance and advice of human resources and labour relations specialists.

Inference & Fact

When deciding if an employee’s actions are culpable or non-culpable it's important not to confuse facts with inferences. Inferences can be made about whether or not behaviour is culpable, but a supervisors’s decisions on these matters should be guided by facts.

There are three reliable measures to distinguish between inference and fact:

  1. A statement of fact can only be made after a specific observation or experience. A statement of inference can be made at any time before, during or after an observation.
  2. A statement of fact is confined to what is observed. An inference goes beyond what is observed.
  3. A statement of fact refers to what is factual, but a statement of inference is only probable to some degree.

A statement of fact must comply with all three of these requirements, otherwise, it must be regarded as an inference.

Next Steps

Once you identify the type of issue, you need to respond. Review the following process maps for an overview of steps to take. The process maps are for informational purposes only. For advice regarding the exact process you should follow, contact AskMyHR. Submit a service request with the category Myself (or) My Team/Organization > Workplace Disputes & Conflicts > Other Issues & Inquiries.

Letter of Expectations

If the issue is non-culpable or minor, a Letter of Expectations (LoE) may be an appropriate tool to provide guidance, communicate expectations, and reduce future misunderstandings.

Investigations & Discipline

As a manager or supervisor, if you suspect employee misconduct that may result in discipline, contact AskMyHR right away. Submit a service request with the category Myself (or) My Team/Organization > Workplace Disputes & Conflicts > report a Workplace Problem. You must consult with the PSA before starting a review, investigation, or disciplining an employee.

An HR Specialist provides guidance on the following issues:

  • Allegations of inappropriate behaviour, attendance, or performance
  • Advice on whether the behaviour/performance is culpable or non-culpable
  • General inquiries about investigations
  • How to address general workplace conflict

For information about investigating alleged misconduct, visit Investigations of Employee Misconduct. For information about employee discipline, visit Discipline.

Criminal Notification

If an employee is arrested, charged, or convicted of any criminal offence or any other federal or provincial statutory offence, they must follow the criminal notification procedures and notify the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Personnel Security Screening Office. The employee isn't required to notify their supervisor. The Personnel Security Screening Office will determine whether the incident is relevant to the employee’s position and advise the Deputy Minister if there's a potential employment issue.

Training for Supervisors & Managers

The PSA offers a series of courses designed to help you learn more about labour relations and develop the skills you need to address problems in the workplace. Visit Resources, Training & Support for Supervisors for an overview of the labour relations courses, or login to the Learning System to register.