There have been recent headlines concerning use of a branded company vehicle in the recent protest convoy in the Vancouver area. The company at issue has stated the vehicle was driven by an employee’s spouse and that its use in the protest was not sanctioned at all and no authorization was sought from ownership or management. Photos of such actions can be a public relations disaster for companies, but what recourse might the company have against the employee involved? The answer will depend on the policies the company has in place.
Any employer providing a company vehicle, whether branded or not, should have thorough policies in place governing the use of such vehicle, including, whether the vehicle can be used for personal purposes and, if so, any limitations on such personal use. Policies should also clearly state who can and cannot drive the vehicle, to ensure that any use by a spouse, child, or other relative is either clearly permissible or not. Companies will want to ensure that they check with their insurance coverage on company vehicles when developing such policies to ensure alignment and that no use is being authorized that may not be covered by the terms of the insurance.
Without such policies in place, there can be ambiguity as to whether any particular use of a company vehicle is actually authorized or not. That distinction can be critical if a company may be looking to terminate an employee for certain use of a vehicle as such distinction can determine whether a termination can be with or without just cause and determine whether any notice or severance may need to be paid to the employee. Certain issues with company vehicle use, even if not explicitly covered by a policy, such as driving the vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, may be more easily assumed to be unauthorized or prohibited, however other issues, such as the vehicle being driven by family members, may not benefit from such assumptions. That is, a company may have in mind what constitutes acceptable use of a company vehicle, but unless those expectations are clearly conveyed to employees, the company may be restricted in what they can safely do in the event of an incident.
For questions on policies concerning use of company vehicles or any assistance in putting such policies in place, contact Clark Wilson LLP’s Employment & Labour Practice Group