1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

“Don’t worry about me, I carry weapons”: employee’s violent statements warranted serious discipline but not dismissal

An electrician’s comment, “Don’t worry about me, I carry weapons” and “it would really feel good to kill something today” constituted workplace violence but did not warrant dismissal, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has held.

The employee had a strained relationship with an Electrical Foreman.   When a female co-worker noticed her in distress about the presence of the foreman, she offered to accompany the employee to the washroom. The employee then made the “weapons” comment, afterwards saying that she was referring to the tools that she carries such as an electrician’s knife and spud wrench, but that she would never harm anyone except to defend herself.  Later in the day, in a meeting with her supervisor and union representatives, she complained again about the foreman and said that she “had a knife”.

An investigator concluded that the employee had made “violent comments” and was emotionally unstable.

The OLRB decided that the employee’s comments “could reasonably be interpreted to constitute a threat to exercise injurious or potentially injurious physical force.”  However, there was nothing premeditated about the threats and there was no previous pattern of threatening conduct on her part. She was “guilty of having engaged in violent threats, but in comparing them with the kinds of behaviour in the cases cited to me by both parties, her comments were at the lower end of the spectrum.” 

The OLRB did not believe that the employee was likely to repeat “such extreme conduct” or that she was a threat to the safety and well-being of other employees.  The dismissal was, therefore, excessive.

Canadian Union of Skilled Workers v Hydro One Inc, 2014 CanLII 44660 (ON LRB)

“Don’t worry about me, I carry weapons”: employee’s violent statements warranted serious discipline but not dismissal

Employer asks HRTO for permission to access employer’s own “Occupational Health and Claims Management” file on employee

Must an employer obtain permission from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to access medical records held in the employer’s own file on an employee who filed a human rights complaint with the Tribunal? That question is raised by a recent Tribunal decision.

The employer submitted that Tribunal authorization was necessary “because there may be a conflict with respect to privacy standards required by applicable legislation. The respondent indicates that the expectations and protections under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 . . . for health information custodians regarding disclosure may be different from the duty imposed on employers by the Occupational Health and Safety Act . . . The respondent submitted that the Tribunal has granted the orders it seeks in other cases in which similar circumstances arose.”

The employer was likely referring to subs. 63(2) of the OHSA which states:

“No employer shall seek to gain access, except by an order of the court or other tribunal or in order to comply with another statute, to a health record concerning a worker without the worker’s written consent.”

Because the employee alleged disability-discrimination relating to her post-traumatic stress disorder, the Tribunal was satisfied that some but not all of the documents contained in the Occupational Health and Claims Management file were arguably relevant and that the employer required access to them in order to meaningfully respond to the employee’s human rights complaint.  Access was granted.

The case illustrates that employers seeking to use information in an employee medical file for litigation purposes should proceed cautiously and should seek a court or Tribunal order if necessary.

Feres v. Toronto Transit Commission, 2014 HRTO 980 (CanLII)

Employer asks HRTO for permission to access employer’s own “Occupational Health and Claims Management” file on employee

MOL permits employer to have multi-workplace joint health and safety committee, union’s challenge dismissed

A union has lost a request to suspend a Ministry of Labour Director’s order allowing a school board to establish a multi-workplace joint health and safety committee.

The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act requires a joint health and safety committee at each workplace where twenty or more workers are regularly employed.  The default rule under the OHSA is that each workplace should have its own committee.  However, the Minister of Labour or his or her delegate has the power to make an Order permitting one joint health and safety committee to cover multiple workplaces.

The Peel District School Board received an Order from a Ministry of Labour Director permitting it to establish and maintain a multi-workplace joint health and safety committee according to certain “terms of reference”.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees challenged the MOL Director’s multi-workplace Order at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and asked the OLRB to suspend that Order pending the outcome of the appeal.

The OLRB refused to suspend the Order, deciding that the OLRB “appears to have no jurisdiction to deal with anything but an inspector’s order”, not an Order of the Minister of Labour or an MOL Director.  As such, the OLRB had no authority to suspend the multi-workplace Order.

This decision shows that when one workplace party asks the Minister of Labour to permit a multi-workplace joint health and safety committee, the time for parties to make submissions is before the Minister (or MOL Director) makes his or her decision.  Effectively, there is no appeal to the OLRB.

Canadian Union of Public Employees v Peel District School Board, 2014 CanLII 38304 (ON LRB)

MOL permits employer to have multi-workplace joint health and safety committee, union’s challenge dismissed

MOL inspector’s grievance gives glimpse into MOL’s after-hours accident response process

Ministry of Labour managers have discretion as to whether to send out an inspector when an employer calls after-hours about a workplace accident, a recent decision suggests.

An MOL inspector filed a grievance under his collective agreement claiming that when a call regarding a workplace injury came in at 5:15 pm, the call should have been referred to him and not the on-call MOL manager. The manager had determined that there was no need to send an inspector to the workplace that night.  The accident involved a broken bone which was a “critical injury” (a worker lost her footing and jumped down the last 3 stairs) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The inspector claimed that he would have gone to the workplace, at least to “secure the site”, and would have earned “premium pay” for his time spent on the visit.

A vice-chair of the Grievance Settlement Board noted that the “Ministry Operations Division Policy and Procedures Reference Manual” contemplated that only after-hours calls falling within certain categories including “critical injuries” are forwarded to the inspector on-call, and that the hotline operator could contact an MOL manager if he or she required clarification or direction on any issue.  The manager had the authority to conduct “triage” and not to send an inspector to the workplace that evening.

There was no violation of the collective agreement or of the Reference Manual, so the inspector’s grievance was dismissed.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (Beaulieu) v Ontario (Labour), 2014 CanLII 40173 (ON GSB)

 

MOL inspector’s grievance gives glimpse into MOL’s after-hours accident response process

Alleging panic attacks due to mistreatment at work, employee’s HRTO application dismissed for duplicating court action

Employees may not raise the same human rights issue before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the courts, a recent HRTO decision confirms.

The employee had commenced a court action in which he claimed that he was a person with a disability and as a result he experienced panic attacks.  He alleged that he had experienced panic attacks in part because of mistreatment at work.  He made essentially the same allegations in a disability-discrimination case at the HRTO, claiming damages for alleged violations of the Human Rights Code in both cases.

The HRTO dismissed his human rights Application, deciding that because the employee had started a court action claiming damages for alleged violations of the Human Rights Code and that court proceeding had not been finally resolved, section 34 of the Human Rights Code required that the HRTO proceeding be dismissed.  Duplicative proceedings were not permitted.

Toker v. 1044765 Ontario Inc., 2014 HRTO 1159 (CanLII)

Alleging panic attacks due to mistreatment at work, employee’s HRTO application dismissed for duplicating court action

Notes taken post-accident can lose privilege if used to refresh memory, court decision suggests

Privileged notes taken by a witness – or by the employer from a witness – after a workplace accident may cease to be privileged if used by the witness to prepare to testify in court, a recent court decision suggests.

The case, which was not an occupational health and safety case, involved charges of refusing to provide an “Approved Screening Device” sample. The charge is often laid where a driver refuses to blow into a breathalyzer to determine whether he or she was driving while impaired.

The accused testified that he had made notes after the incident, as his father had told him to write down everything that he remembered, word for word.  At trial, he testified that he had read the notes to prepare for trial.

The judge decided that the accused had used the notes to refresh his memory, and therefore the litigation privilege over the notes was lost.  The judge decided:

“When the accused chooses to refresh his memory from notes to which litigation privilege would otherwise apply prior to taking the stand, the Crown is entitled to see such notes subject to the court’s discretion. An accused person who has prepared notes to refresh their memory and uses those notes to the refresh their memory prior to testifying has waived any litigation privilege attached to those notes. It is important that the opposing party have the opportunity to test the memory of events and expose inaccuracies in memory.”

Employers facing Occupational Health and Safety Act charges should understand that notes that would otherwise be litigation-privileged that are taken by the employer after a workplace accident may lose their privilege, and therefore be obtained by the prosecutor, if used by a witness to refresh his or her memory before testifying.

R. v. Sachkiw, 2014 ONCJ 287 (CanLII)

Notes taken post-accident can lose privilege if used to refresh memory, court decision suggests

“Red flags” were used to assess workplace violence threat; employer’s request for psychiatric assessment was justified

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled that the City of Toronto was justified in requiring an employee to obtain a psychiatric assessment because of “red flags” which included a comment, “Do you want me to die?”

The employee’s handling of a tense security-related incident involving anti-poverty activists was questioned.  When asked by a City security supervisor for more information about the incident, the employee said, “Do you want me to die?”   The supervisor testified that he found the comment, “Do you want me to die?” to be concerning and that he felt that he had an obligation to follow up for health and safety reasons. He testified that he was concerned as he did not know what was going on in the applicant’s mind.

Shortly afterwards, the City told the employee that it had made an appointment with a psychiatrist for him to obtain an assessment. The employee testified that he felt humiliated, but that he decided to go for the psychiatric assessment to prove that he was “mentally fit”, but that he also filed a complaint with the City’s Human Rights office due to the “coercive” act of sending him for a psychiatric assessment.  The employee’s supervisors did not receive the assessment report, but were simply told that the employee was fit to return to work without any restrictions from doing the tasks of the job.

The Tribunal decided that the referral to the psychiatrist was reasonable given that there were “red flags” present, as the City representatives were acting in good faith out of concern for health and safety and had determined that it would not be appropriate to impose discipline on the employee for his actions if they were related to a disability.  Also, there was no evidence that the City had broken confidentiality.

With respect to the “red flags”, the City’s Manager of Security and Life Safety had testified that there are “red flags”, which are relevant in assessing a workplace violence threat, which include “a lack of an immediate support system, a preceding event . . . and a change in character.” He said that the “red flags” that the City had identified were: “the applicant lived alone, was emotional, had stated ‘Do you want me to die?’ . . . and he had been uncharacteristically insubordinate.”

This decision suggests that where an employee’s behaviour raises “red flags” about his or her mental health such that the employee’s – or other employees’ – safety may be at issue, an employer may be justified in requiring the employee to submit to a psychiatric assessment.  In general, the employer is not entitled to receive the assessment report but is entitled to receive the assessor’s determination as to whether the employee is fit for work and able to work safely.

Mokri v. Toronto (City), 2014 HRTO 853 (CanLII)

“Red flags” were used to assess workplace violence threat; employer’s request for psychiatric assessment was justified

Ministry of Labour sued for hiring allegedly incompetent inspector

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is facing a negligence suit by the lone survivor of the Christmas Eve, 2009 scaffold collapse that resulted in Metron Construction being fined $750,000.00 for safety violations.

In the lawsuit against the MOL, Dilshod Marupov, along with other plaintiffs, alleges that the MOL failed to enforce statutory requirements for safety; failed to properly train its employees to inspect the scaffolding and enforce the statutory safety requirements; and hired employees who were incompetent and did not use the requisite care in inspecting the premises and the scaffolding, as well as other allegations.  The allegations have not been proven in court.

At examinations for discovery in the lawsuit, the MOL refused to answer certain questions including questions about the education, training and experience of its inspector assigned to the job site and about changes in certain MOL policies after the incident.  The plaintiffs brought a motion to the court, and Master Dash ordered the MOL to answer most of the refused questions.

The court noted that “core policy” decisions of government are protected from lawsuits, but governments can be liable where government agents are negligent in carrying out their duties.  The court noted that “it is an open question whether discretionary decisions by inspectors as to when or whether to inspect and frequency of inspections are core policy decisions” of the government or whether they are operational decisions of employees that may form the basis of a lawsuit for damages.

As we noted in a previous post, another lawsuit was filed against the MOL alleging “negligent inspection” of the Algo Centre Mall which collapsed in Elliot Lake.

Marupov et al v. Metron Construction Inc. et al, 2014 ONSC 3535 (CanLII)

Ministry of Labour sued for hiring allegedly incompetent inspector

Ontario employers to bear WSIB costs of injured agency employees

A new Ontario Bill will make employers liable for the WSIB costs of injured agency employees working for them.

Bill 18, which passed first reading on July 16, 2014, will amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to attribute to an employer the WSIB accident costs of any temporary agency employee who is injured while working for them.

Previously, temporary agencies needed to bring a “transfer of costs” application to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to have the WSIB attribute the accident costs to the employer instead of the temporary agency.  Once Bill 18 passes (the coming-into-effect date is not yet known), that will no longer be necessary.

Most employers will already be conscientious about the safety of agency employees working for them.  Bill 18 adds an additional incentive.

Bill 18, which amends a number of other Ontario laws including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (see our post of July 22nd) may be accessed here.

Ontario employers to bear WSIB costs of injured agency employees

Are supervisors able to assess impairment? Drug driving decision suggests so

A recent Ontario decision suggests that laypersons - such as supervisors – may assess whether a person is impaired from drugs or alcohol, and their assessment will be considered in legal proceedings.

In a “drug driving” case, a driver was found guilty of driving while impaired by marijuana.   A police officer approached his vehicle and observed him as having bloodshot, glassy eyes and the smell of marijuana was coming from the vehicle.  The driver’s pupils were dilated. The driver admitted to having smoked a “J” approximately 2 1/2 hours earlier.  He was taken to a police station where another officer, a “drug recognition evaluator”, observed him and performed certain physical and other tests, and concluded that he was impaired.

The driver argued, on appeal, that the drug recognition evaluator should not have been accepted by the trial judge as an “expert” witness on drug recognition.  The appeal court disagreed, going on to state that the courts have had a long-accepted practice of admitting evidence of non-expert witnesses about whether a person was intoxicated or impaired.

Interestingly, a urine test came back negative for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that causes physical impairment, but the court still decided that based on the police officers’ observations and assessments, the driver was impaired when he was driving (even if he was no longer impaired when the urine sample was taken).

The appeal court referenced the Evaluation of Impaired Operation (Drugs and Alcohol) Regulations, which are used by police officers who are “certified drug recognition experts” to evaluate whether a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Those Regulations set out a number of tests that those officers can perform to assess whether the person is impaired.

Supervisors often question whether they have the expertise to assess whether an employee is impaired. This decision suggests that supervisors’ observations are important and will be relevant evidence in legal proceedings, such as a wrongful dismissal action by an employee who was dismissed for being impaired at work.  Supervisors tasked with identifying impairment should, preferably, be given training and materials (such as a checklist) to help them in the task.

R. v. Henry, 2014 ONSC 4115 (CanLII)

Are supervisors able to assess impairment? Drug driving decision suggests so

Ontario Bill to extend protection of OHSA to unpaid trainees

A new Ontario Bill will give unpaid trainees the protection of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The OHSA currently gives that protection to paid workers only.

The current definition of “worker” under the OHSA is “a person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation . . .”

Under Bill 18, the OHSA’s definition of “worker” will be expanded to include unpaid high school, college and university students in certain approved programs; as well as certain unpaid trainees receiving training for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the employer.  Bill 18 also allows the government to pass a regulation making other unpaid persons “workers” under the OHSA.

Practically, most employers will already apply their safety programs to unpaid trainees as if the OHSA already applied to them.  The main impact of the redefinition of “worker” will be that employers are now exposed to charges and fines if unpaid trainees – who, one suspects, have a higher than average risk of being injured – are in fact injured. This makes it all the more important that employers ensure that trainees receive all necessary safety training.

Bill 18 passed first reading on July 16, 2014.  Due to the Liberal majority, the Bill is expected to pass.  We do not yet know when the Bill will come into force.

Bill 18, which contains amendments to a number of other employment-related laws, may be accessed here.

Ontario Bill to extend protection of OHSA to unpaid trainees

Reprimands for “violation of basic safety protocols” were not discriminatory

After failing in a harassment grievance that was based on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employee has failed in his bid to persuade the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that safety-related discipline against him was discriminatory under the Human Rights Code.

The employee’s union grievance had alleged bullying and harassment against the supervisor under the Occupational Health and Safety Act; the grievance had been denied.

In his Human Rights Tribunal application, the employee alleged that, in one incident, his supervisor yelled at him about wearing proper safety equipment because he did not have his safety boots on. The employee felt that the safety boots were not necessary.  After another incident, the supervisor gave him a letter about the need to wear appropriate safety equipment.  The employee claimed that, in yet another incident, the supervisor had berated him, called him stupid, and threatened him with being fired.

The Human Rights Tribunal stated that it does not have a general power to deal with allegations of unfairness.  The Tribunal found no link between the alleged actions of the supervisor and any prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code (such as sex, race or disability).  It was clear that the relationship between the employee and his supervisor was fraught with tension, and that he had been reprimanded for violation of basic safety protocols, but there was no cogent evidence to prove discrimination.

With increasing workplace attention on harassment, some employees are looking to tribunals such as the Ontario Labour Relations Board and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for assistance.  In the case of the Tribunal, the complaint will fail unless the employee can prove that he or she suffered discrimination or harassment because of sex, race, disability or another prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

Sfara v. Toronto (City), 2014 HRTO 178 (CanLII)

 

Reprimands for “violation of basic safety protocols” were not discriminatory

“Disgruntled and aggressive clients” posed safety threat under OHSA

An employee who was fired after complaining to the Ministry of Labour that she felt threatened by “disgruntled and aggressive clients” was entitled to damages for the retaliatory discharge, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has decided.

The employee worked for an investment/marketing company.  She tried to speak with a company manager about her concerns with aggressive clients and about having the company develop procedures to deal with matters such as violence and harassment. The manager refused to entertain the suggestions.

The employee then contacted the Ministry of Labour and told the MOL that she felt threatened in the workplace and that her employer had no policies to deal with her concerns.  After a co-worker contacted the MOL with concerns, an MOL inspector came to the workplace and ordered the employer to prepare a violence and harassment policy.  The next day, the company dismissed the employee.

The OLRB accepted that the threat posed by “disgruntled and aggressive clients” was a workplace safety issue under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and that the employee had characterized it as such when she had complained to management.  Also, in the absence of an explanation by the employer (the employer did not attend the OLRB hearing), the OLRB was satisfied that at least part of the company’s reason for dismissing her was her safety complaint.  As such, her termination was an illegal reprisal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  She found employment quickly, and was entitled to damages in the amount of four weeks’ wages.

Abigail C de los Santos Sands v Moneta Marketing Solutions Inc, 2014 CanLII 33527 (ON LRB)

 

“Disgruntled and aggressive clients” posed safety threat under OHSA

Arbitrator may order change to hours, location of doctor who sexually-harassed hospital nurse

Where a doctor has sexually harassed a nurse, a labour arbitrator has authority to decide how close the doctor should be able to work with the nurse, and under what conditions, an Ontario arbitrator has decided.

The nurse claimed that she was sexually harassed by the doctor. The hospital stripped the doctor of his privileges so that he could not, at present, practise at the hospital. The union brought a grievance on behalf of the nurse, claiming relief including an assurance from the hospital “that Dr. G. will not be allowed to return to the workplace.”  The hospital and the doctor claimed that the arbitrator had no authority to order that relief.

The arbitrator decided that he had jurisdiction to determine the essential question: how close Dr. G. should be able to work with the nurse, and under what conditions.  That was a labour relations question arising directly from the collective agreement which guaranteed a safe workplace free from harassment.

The arbitrator held that although the Health Professionals Appeal and Review Board had exclusive jurisdiction over the doctor’s privileges at public hospitals, the arbitrator had authority to determine how close the doctor should be able to work with the nurse, and under what conditions.  This may involve a decision on whether the nurse and doctor should work at different sites or in different locations, and whether the doctor should work at the hospital at all when the nurse is working there.

William Osler Health System v Ontario Nurses’ Association, 2013 CanLII 72709 (ON LA)

 

Arbitrator may order change to hours, location of doctor who sexually-harassed hospital nurse

Safety committee members lose claims that employer retaliated against them

Disciplinary letters issued to three members of a safety “Policy Committee” were not retaliatory under the Canada Labour Code, the Canada Industrial Relations Board has decided.

Air Canada issued letters to three members of the Policy Committee, which is required by the Canada Labour Code, alleging that they had refused to go through with a Policy Committee meeting despite being on full time paid leave from Air Canada to perform Policy Committee duties.

The employees’ union, CUPE, filed a complaint arguing that the letters were prohibited reprisals under the Canada Labour Code.

Air Canada and CUPE had entered into a Memorandum of Agreement dealing with a number of issues including releasing of cabin personnel to perform safety representative duties. The Memorandum of Understanding lead to CUPE and Air Canada taking contradictory positions about the number of employee members on the Policy Committee. The aborted Policy Committee meeting resulted from that dispute.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board held that the dispute between the employees and Air Canada, and Air Canada’s disciplinary actions, therefore resulted from the Memorandum of Agreement, not from the employees’ participation in a safety process under Part II of the Canada Labour Code. As such, there was no safety-reprisal issue under the Canada Labour Code. The Canada Industrial Relations Board was not the forum for adjudication issues under the Memorandum of Agreement.

Paquet v Air Canada, 2013 CIRB 691 (CanLII)

Safety committee members lose claims that employer retaliated against them

Supreme Court denies chronic stress WCB claim after employee reacted to disciplinary letter

The Supreme Court of Canada has denied an employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits for “chronic stress” which he said resulted from a disciplinary letter that followed years of conflict over another workplace issue.

The employee, a park warden with Parks Canada, had for years argued that park wardens should be armed when carrying out law enforcement duties. He filed a health and safety complaint which generated internal complaint processes and a number of court cases and appeals.

Parks Canada received a request under access to information legislation and instructed the employee to disclose certain data on his work computer so that it could comply with the request. Parks Canada was not satisfied that he responded properly, so it gave him a letter notifying him that he would be disciplined if he did not provide an adequate response to the access to information request.

The employee already had a written reprimand on his file and feared that the next discipline would be dismissal. He claimed that the letter triggered a psychological condition that followed years of conflict over the health and safety issue. He filed a claim with the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board. The relevant Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board policy stated:

11. When does WCB accept claims for chronic onset stress?

As with any other claim, WCB investigates the causation to determine whether the claim is acceptable. Claims for this type of injury are eligible for compensation only when all of the following criteria are met:

• there is a confirmed psychological or psychiatric diagnosis . . .

• the work-related events or stressors are the predominant cause of the injury; . . .

• the work-related events are excessive or unusual in comparison to the normal pressures and tensions experienced by the average worker in a similar occupation, and

• there is objective confirmation of the events.

In addition to the duties reasonably expected by the nature of the worker’s occupation, normal pressures and tensions include, for example, interpersonal relations and conflicts, health and safety concerns, union issues, and routine labour relations actions taken by the employer, including workload and deadlines, work evaluation, performance management (discipline), transfers, changes in job duties, lay-offs, demotions, terminations, and reorganizations, to which all workers may be subject from time to time. [pp. 5-6]“

There was no dispute that the employee had met the first two criteria under the policy to receive WCB benefits for chronic stress: that there was a confirmed psychological or psychiatric diagnosis, and that the work-related events or stressors were the predominant cause of the injury. However, the employer disputed that (1) the work-related events were excessive or unusual in comparison to the normal pressures and tensions experienced by the average worker in a similar occupation, and (2) there was objective confirmation of the events.

The Supreme Court of Canada decided that it was open to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board to find that the “predominant cause” of the employee’s psychological injury was his reaction to the letter, and that such request was not unusual in terms of normal pressures and tensions in a similar occupation. Therefore, the WCB’s decision to deny workers’ compensation benefits to the employee was reasonable.

Martin v. Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board), 2014 SCC 25 (CanLII)

Supreme Court denies chronic stress WCB claim after employee reacted to disciplinary letter

Company fined $25,000 for operating electrical contracting business without license under Electricity Act after apprentice injured

An electrical contractor has been convicted and fined for carrying on an electrical contracting business without being licensed under the Ontario Electricity Act.

A young apprentice with the company was seriously injured after an electrical explosion.

The apprentice was disassembling and reassembling “conduit runs” under the supervision of “others who were his masters or supervisors”. He was “pulling a disconnect of a busbar” when it exploded.  There was a fire and molten metal fell on him.  He suffered lasting injuries.

The court found that the company operated an electrical contracting business without being the holder of an electrical contracting license pursuant to Regulation 570/05 (“Licensing of Electrical Contractors and Master Electricians”) under the Electricity Act.

The court accepted the prosecutor’s request for a $25,000 fine for failing to hold the contracting license.

This case shows that the mere failure to obtain an appropriate license can cost employers many thousands of dollars in fines where the employer carries out safety-sensitive work.

R. v. JF Industrial Systems (Windsor) Inc., 2013 ONCJ 766 (CanLII)

Company fined $25,000 for operating electrical contracting business without license under Electricity Act after apprentice injured

$50,000 fine after trip-over-cord accident shows employers must listen to safety committee recommendations

A nurse’s trip over a cord has landed a hospital a $50,000 fine, where the joint health and safety committee had previously documented cord trips as a known hazard.

The nurse was administering medication to a patient.  When leaving the bedside, the nurse’s foot became entangled in a cable attached to the “bed check” equipment.  She fell and fractured her arm.

According to the Ministry of Labour press release, dangling cords were a known hazard in the workplace and the joint health and safety committee inspection records showed that.  The cord in question had not been secured, although hooks, clips or Velcro had been previously identified as methods of securing the cords.

The hospital pleaded guilty to a charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing to train the employee on trip hazards and was fined $50,000 plus the 25% Victim Fine Surcharge.

The Ministry of Labour’s press release can be found here.

$50,000 fine after trip-over-cord accident shows employers must listen to safety committee recommendations

Threat, assault on supervisor were just cause for dismissal at isolated mine in NWT with “zero tolerance” violence policy

An employee at an isolated camp in the Northwest Territories who assaulted and threatened his supervisor was dismissed for just cause, an adjudicator has decided.

The employee was an equipment operator at a mine site.

The evidence was that the employee and supervisor got into an altercation “not directly related to work issues”.  All witnesses said that the employee pushed the supervisor three times.  Two witnesses said that the employee also threw a cup or bottle of water at the supervisor. Several coworkers were required to restrain the employee.

The day after the incident, the employee gave a statement in which he said, “.  .  . I didn’t make threats but I did make a promise.  I know where the prick lives and we will see each other.” The employer fired him and claimed just cause.

The employee filed a claim for termination pay under the NWT Employment Standards Act.  An Employment Standards Officer decided that he was dismissed for just cause and thus was not entitled to termination pay. The employee appealed, and an adjudicator agreed that he had been dismissed for just cause.

The adjudicator stated that the employee had agreed to the zero-tolerance violence policy and had disregarded that policy.  The workplace was an isolated camp setting and the assault and further threats of violence were in clear violation of that policy.  Although the employee claimed that his supervisor had not been treating him properly, there were other alternatives to violence.

Therefore, the adjudicator decided that the single incident of the assault and threats was just cause for dismissal.

I & D Management Services Ltd v Mercredi, 2013 CanLII 89793 (NWT LSB)

 

Threat, assault on supervisor were just cause for dismissal at isolated mine in NWT with “zero tolerance” violence policy

Supervisor who solicited and procured drugs from employee was fired for cause

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the for-cause termination of a supervisor who used text messages to solicit and obtain drugs from an employee under his supervision.  Safety was one of the supervisor’s responsibilities in an industry described as “high risk” and “safety-sensitive”.

The supervisor was a project manager of a pile driving company.  The company fired the supervisor, alleging that he had misused a company gas credit card and a B.C. Ferries card, as well as failed to pay for a hotel bill.   After the termination, when the supervisor returned his company cell phone, the company found text messages from him soliciting drugs from an employee under his supervision.  The primary drugs were Dexedrine and clonazepam, both prescription medications which are “listed substances” under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The company relied on the text messages as “after-acquired cause” for dismissal.

The supervisor sued in court for wrongful dismissal. In written argument, he agreed that he had a senior and important role, that safety was a very important function at the company, and that he supervised safety.  He agreed that it was his role to set an example.  He admitted the possibility that he consumed illegal drugs with the employee.

The trial judge stated that it did not matter whether the supervisor’s solicitation happened at work or offsite.  Also, it did not matter that, as the supervisor alleged, others in the company smoked marijuana at a company party.  The trial judge decided that the company had just cause to fire the supervisor.

The B.C. Court of Appeal agreed, stating:

“Vancouver Pile Driving defended Mr. Van den Boogaard’s dismissal, alleging after-acquired cause. Mr. Van den Boogaard admitted he engaged in criminal conduct with a person over whom he had direct supervisory authority, including the ability to hire or fire. He had a high level of responsibility as a project manager on a worksite in one of the highest accident risk industries. He was responsible for site safety and effective execution of all projects under his control. He worked without supervision. He was responsible for the implementation of drug policies. He was expected to supervise his drug dealer in a safety sensitive workplace. He exhibited lack of judgment. As the trial judge found, ‘asking an employee under his supervision to procure illegal drugs is misconduct that goes to the root of the employment relation’. The employment relationship could not be restored in the circumstances.”

As this case illustrates, employers – particularly those in safety-sensitive industries – are entitled to hold their supervisors to high standards of safety. 

Van den Boogaard v. Vancouver Pile Driving Ltd., 2014 BCCA 168 (CanLII); trial decision available here.

Supervisor who solicited and procured drugs from employee was fired for cause