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“Unacceptable Burden” on Employer to Keep Two Fighting Employees Apart: Dismissal Upheld, But Lifetime Work Ban at Hydro Overturned

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A journeyman electrician employed by Hydro One Inc. was properly dismissed because, during an altercation, he pushed another employee causing him to lose his footing and fall down metal stairs outside a trailer, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has held.

The OLRB decided that the employee’s push of his coworker was unplanned and “strictly a reaction to a scenario instigated by” the coworker. Both employees were “strong-willed individuals who enjoyed their combative relationship and have managed to control it” until the date of the incident.

It was critical here, according to the OLRB, that the employee had not apologized to his coworker. The lack of an apology “prompts consideration of whether there has been any therapeutic reflection upon the unacceptability of violence, even violence . . . that was precipitated by the perception of a need to ward off unexpected raised arm(s).”

The OLRB expressed concern that the lack of an apology and of any evidence showing that the two employees were likely to reconcile, meant that reinstatement would impose upon the employer “an unacceptable burden of ensuring that these two are kept apart until such time as there can be assurance of no further hostilities.” That was beyond what the employer could be “burdened with since the employee and his coworker were unable to “control their personal interactions”.

The termination was thus upheld. However, the OLRB struck down Hydro One’s prohibition in perpetuity of the employee doing any work at Hydro, because if he returned to Hydro One as an employee or contractor, the employee would likely not be in the same working relationship with his coworker-nemesis.

Canadian Union of Skilled Workers v. Hydro One Inc., 2012 CanLII 23317 (OLRB)