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Two Death Threats Against Foreman Land Employee Five-Day Suspension: Employer Required to Act

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The Ontario Labour Relations Board, sitting as an arbitrator, has upheld a five-day suspension against a construction employee who admitted that he threatened twice, over two days, to kill his foreman.

The OLRB referred to Ontario’s Bill 168 which introduced workplace violence and harassment provisions to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The OLRB stated that “when an event that fits squarely within the definition of workplace violence [under Bill 168] occurs, an employer is not only permitted but required to act, both to deal with the unacceptable behaviour and to take steps to ensure that its policies are known and understood.”  The OLRB stated that “general deterrence” is important in cases of workplace violence – that is, sending a strong message that discourages other employees from engaging in workplace violence.

The OLRB found that the threats were not a joke. He was not simply speaking out of frustration.  No one who heard the threats thought he was making a joke.  The employee refused to apologize.  A five-day suspension was appropriate.

Reading the decision, one wonders whether termination might have been the appropriate response.  Arbitrators are increasingly taking a hard line against workplace violence.  See our previous post, Threats are “Violence” Post-Bill 168: Firing of Long-Term Employee Upheld.

Teston Pipelines Limited v. Labourers’ International Union of North America, http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onlrb/doc/2011/2011canlii78812/2011canlii78812.html