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First off, it would be wise for employers to build an in-camera requirement into contracts, job descriptions and/or workplace policies. This is far from the be-all-and-end-all, but every little bit of evidence that this is a requirement that was known to and required of the employee helps a company’s argument if an employee refuses to appear on camera on virtual meetings.

Even without that, if an employee refuses to appear on camera on a virtual meeting without a legitimate explanation is likely grounds for discipline. It is not likely grounds to dismiss an employee for cause, unless it is the last in a series of warnings about this or a similar topic. In other words, if the refusal is the “culmination” in a long pattern of insubordinate behaviour, then it may be grounds to terminate without severance. But most of the time, that won’t be the case.

Still, this is the employer’s chance to build a paper trail of warnings. As an employee, you would be wise to explain yourself either before or after receiving such a warning. If there was a misunderstanding, be sure that’s made apparent; if there was a good reason, make sure that’s clear – and consider providing relevant documentation, as appropriate.

It may be that the employer is simply annoyed if an employee refuses to appear on camera. While, as stated above, that is probably not grounds to terminate for cause, it could generally justify a “without cause” termination. In that scenario, the employee would be entitled to fair severance – but from the company’s perspective, that might be a worthy price to pay to rid itself of a troublemaker, especially if that troublemaker might proselytize the rest of the workplace toward further insubordinate behaviour.

If you feel that your organization needs a contractual policy revolving around working from home etiquettes, we at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

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