Should this be a firing offense?

A driver for a Canadian company was captured on camera making a jerk move. During heavy rain in Ottawa, the van was deliberately driven through puddles so as to splash pedestrians on the sidewalk.

When these actions were brought to the attention of the driver’s employers, the driver was fired.

I am pretty sure that most people have at some time been splashed by drivers. I have been at the receiving end and it is not pleasant. Usually these things are done inadvertently though sometimes I have had suspicions that it may have been deliberate. Sadly, I am pretty sure that I have splashed others on occasion due to not noticing the puddle until it was too late to avoid it. I can understand the company, whose name was visible on the side of the van, wanting to mitigate the public relations damage by taking swift and strong action. But is this really a firing offense?

I think an appropriate response would have been for the driver to have received a strong reprimand, maybe even having their pay docked for some amount, accompanied by a warning that any repetition would result in firing. This seems like an occasion to teach a lesson about being considerate to others, unless the driver had a history of being an irredeemable jerk and this was just the last straw. Firing someone is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly but only for serious offenses. This driver may have a family to support and they might suffer because of this stupid and inconsiderate behavior.

This pedestrian-soaking offense does not rise to the level of this one, in which a van driver, angry because he thought he had been cut off, followed the other driver, a black man, to his home and then used racial epithets against him. It is almost impossible to drum up sympathy for van driver who now claims that his heating/cooling contracting business was ruined by video of his actions going viral, again because the name of his company was clearly visible in the video. You can see that incident here.


  1. Amarantha Dyuaaxchs says

    It probably counts as assault, just like bumping into someone by accident is negligible (and you apologize if possible); but doing it on purpose, without permission, even lightly, is assault.

  2. Steve Cameron says

    It’s pretty clear that he was doing it on purpose, even going out of his way to hit the puddles. And I counted three people he splashed in this short video alone, so there’s probably a lot more who didn’t get recorded — this is sociopathic behavior. Even if he hadn’t splashed any people it’s still pretty reckless driving, and since he works as a driver that alone should be enough to fire him. Doing this in a marked company vehicle to boot, I don’t think he should have expected anything less when he was caught.

  3. says

    While splashing accidents do happen (btw, in Germany you would have to pay for the dry cleaning of the pedestrian’s clothing, though in reality this barely ever happens), these were no accidents and what he did was dangerous. He intentionally drove through the puddles, close to the sidewalk which he won’t have been able to see clearly due to the water.
    Imagine he’d hit the sidewalk while going at that speed with a wet road.

  4. says

    Steve beat me to it. Putting aside the splashing behaviour (and yes, I think he should be fired for that, because I can’t think of any job where you wouldn’t be fired if you were to dump a jug of water on a stranger’s head while working), it was deliberate reckless driving. What if the driver lost control and hit one of them?

    There is also the potential threat of a lawsuit. At least one of the victims appears to have been completely soaked. Were they on their way to work and lost time because they had to go home and change? What if they lost the job? What if a job interview was lost because of this? Even if the worst that happened is someone lost an hour of work or some clothes might have been ruined, there are actual costs to what he did.

    This wasn’t a prank. This was something that could have repercussions in people’s lives. “This driver may have a family to support and they might suffer because of this stupid and inconsiderate behavior.” Yes, and the blame for that is entirely on him. The people he soaked and their families? They’re probably fine but he gave no thought to what might have happened to them.

  5. stumble says

    As a company ignore the public backlash for a moment and just consider the liability. They are now on notice that this guy is a reckless driver and prone to use a company vehicle for his personal fun. Were someone to get hurt either because he splashed some gravel into their eyes, or missed and hit the curb flipping the truck, they are absolutely screwed.

  6. keljopy says

    To answer your question: Yes

    To echo everyone else, he is driving recklessly in a company vehicle and probably committing assault (basically throwing something at someone). It is not accidental, he is doing it with intent, which reflects a complete lack of empathy for other humans. Would it be ok for a restaurant server to walk around dumping pitchers of dirty water on people for fun and keep their job because they might have a family to support? Losing your job because you are intentionally harming people while doing said job (even in a probably minor way such as this) is on you and only you as is any suffering your family goes through as a result.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    … unless the driver had a history of being an irredeemable jerk and this was just the last straw

    Which you just don’t know, but his employers do.

    This driver may have a family to support and they might suffer because of this stupid and inconsiderate behavior.

    If continued employment is important to this driver, then it would be incumbent upon him to drive in a fashion that is consistent with continued employment.

  8. Mark Dowd says

    This seems like an occasion to teach a lesson about being considerate to others…

    Yeah, if you’re four years old maybe. Not for a (presumably) grown adult. Your employer has no responsibility to be your mommy.

    I’m young, so I haven’t been working all that long. I’ve gotten criticisms from my bosses about a few things, like coming off as rude because my communications are too terse, how to properly follow the chain of command, tardiness, things of that nature. Legitimate professional concerns of the business. I can confidently say that none of them were anywhere near as juvenile as this bullshit.

    Is this an achievement now?

    Fuck humans. We suck.

    Now let’s divert to something slightly more lighthearted. While drafting this post in my head, I was conceiving of the driver as male. A bit of feminist sensibility panged in my head that I should probably double-check this (I’m sure the recent news about Kimberly Guilfoyle had nothing to do with that), and to my surprise I see that both your post and the linked BBC article do not have a single male pronoun in them. Both describe the driver in completely gender-neutral terms (“they”, “the driver”, “the individual”). It seems like every commentator above me (except #1 and #2) has either failed to do this spot check, or have heard about the driver’s identity from some other source.

    Ah patriarchy. When will you finally leave us?

  9. Holms says

    I agree with Mano: a reprimand, and a firing if the behaviour repeats. The thing we don’t know is whether he had already gone through this before with his employer. If he had, then the firing seems justified; if not, then precipitous. Only he and the company know which is the case.

  10. Raucous Indignation says

    I would fire one of my employees if this behavior was done in a company vehicle or on company time. I don’t want dicks working for my business. Giving a dick more “chances” isn’t what I’m here for. Plus, good employees hate working with someone like this. I can guarantee that this person (who is, of course, a man) is a dick in myriad other ways at work.

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    … for a Canadian company …

    You gotta keep this in context: those people up in Canadia are so fastidious, they’d probably even give the guy a hard time if he merely shot somebody.

  12. says

    This driver may have a family to support and they might suffer because of this stupid and inconsiderate behavior.

    You know what? Fuck that shit. I am all for strong labour laws that protect employees against being fired for small offences or at will. But when somebody recklessly endangers others, there is a line crossed. He had a choice. If he needs the job because of his family he should have thought about it before.
    What about the people he hurt? Do they not have jobs and lives and families?

  13. Onamission5 says

    The first soaking incident caught on camera, the driver comes in close enough to the curb that he very nearly clips a parked car and has to veer dangerously close to oncoming traffic in order to avoid it. Was his view of that vehicle obstructed by over splash on his windshield? If so, why did he repeatedly try to splash pedestrians afterwards, knowing the risk?

    The driver was not only behaving as a public nuisance on company time, in a company vehicle, while acting as an agent and representative of the company, he was also driving recklessly, swerving a top heavy vehicle like that on wet, slippery streets. Is this the first time this happened or just the first time the driver happened to do it behind someone whose car had a rear view camera?

    He ought have considered the possible consequences to his family, if he has one, prior to engaging in dangerous driving and nuisance behavior towards the public. No I do not think he should still be employed as a company driver. What would a reprimand do, really? How would the employer monitor the driver to ensure he no longer engages in such actions? Would they have to employ a babysitter at their own expense, or install a recording device, just to ensure the driver behaves like the safe, responsible adult he likely signed a contract promising to be when hired for the job?

  14. fledanow says

    Although no charges were laid, his behaviour fits the definition of assault under Canadian law, plus that of dangerous driving. I’d have no qualms about firing him. And I’m a bleeding heart, leftist, softy Canadian. And he’s a dangerous man.

  15. Onamission5 says

    To expand on my #16:
    I work retail. When hired for the position, the paperwork I filled out contained a section where new employees agree, if the situation should arise, to operate company vehicles with courtesy, safety, and due consideration for all laws. Which is to say if I decided of my own free will to use a company vehicle to harass vulnerable members of the public in any manner, I would not expect to keep my job should my employer learn of my behavior, because I would have abused their trust, broken my employment agreement, and caused damage to their business.

  16. says

    I read some more comments about this story yesterday and it blows my mind how many people don’t think he should have been fired, and how many people have minimized what he did with “it’s just water!” I guarantee that if any of those “it’s just water!” people were on the receiving end they wouldn’t cheerfully be calling out, “Good one! You really got me there!”

  17. Onamission5 says

    @Tabby Lavalamp:

    Indeed, if he’d decided to use his time on the clock to dump jugs of “it’s just (dirty gutter) water” over random people’s heads, that should still be a firing offense, even without the additional reckless driving. Assault much? Harassment ring a bell? Yup.

    What’s in that “just water” he was soaking pedestrians with, anyway? Used bandages, sticks, rocks, rotten food, dog shit, motor oil, you name it, it’s in there. Gutter runoff isn’t clean by any stretch of the imagination.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To repeat what others said: If I owned a company, and if one of my employees performed a criminal assault on someone on company time, in company uniform or badge or with company vehicles, I’d fire them if I could. I’d fire them for liability reasons, and I’d fire them for public relation reasons, and I’d fire him because I’d love to create some karma in the world and reward this person justly for their actions. Seriously -- this is basically equivalent -- morally and legally -- to punching someone without reason or warning. An unprovoked punching of a stranger by an employee on-the-clock or in company uniform etc should clearly be a firing offense, and so should this.

  19. says

    In the UK, splashing pedestrians with water from puddles is a prosecutable offence, punishable by a fine of up to £5000 and 3-9 penalty points on your licence. It comes under the heading of “driving without due care and attention”.

  20. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Yes -- because not only is he being a jerk and making the company look bad, he is driving recklessly.

    If you hit a deeper than anticipated puddle with one set of wheels when the other set is on dry or nearly dry pavement the puddle side will abruptly slow and can throw the whole truck into a spin or flip it. Also, there can be potholes under that water that damage the suspension. Or even entire vehicle-swallowing potholes.

    In a spectacular example of karma, my mom and I were driving cautiously in heavy rain on a flooded road … both lanes of traffic were hugging the midline and we were at the and of a queue. Some jerk came flying up behind me in a jacked-up pickup truck, flashing his lights so I would pull to the right and let him through. I did not.

    He down-shifted and accelerated around to my right to illegally pass me, drenching my car with a huge wave … and then his right-most wheels went into the irrigation ditch I knew was under the water somewhere “over there”. He was in a deep irrigation ditch with about 2 feet of water hiding its banks, two left-most wheels completely in the air and about half the truck under water and slowly filling up.

    My mother waved to him politely as we passed.

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