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“Picking On” Employee, Suspending Her for Refusing Work Assignment, Were not Safety-Reprisal

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A nurse who refused a work assignment, then claimed that her supervisor had suspended her and was “picking” on and excessively monitoring her was not the victim of a reprisal under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has decided.

The nurse, who regularly worked in a Neurology Unit at a hospital, was assigned for one shift in the Respirology Unit.  She stated that she had never received orientation for that unit, nor had she ever worked there.  She refused the assignment, stating that her lack of familiarity would put the lives of patients, and her nursing license, at risk. The employer suspended her for her refusal.  She then filed a complaint with the OLRB alleging that her suspension was a safety-reprisal.

The OLRB decided that the nurse had not made any allegations that her suspension was a safety reprisal; she had not even alleged that the hospital’s actions resulted from her compliance with or seeking enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  Her safety-reprisal complaint was therefore dismissed.

This decision is another in a line of OLRB decisions that the safety-reprisal provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act are intended to deal only with safety reprisals, not other workplace disputes.

Brown v. William Osler Health Centre, 2012 CanLII 38163 (OLRB)