“Competent supervisor” obligation relates to competence in safety, not in performance management: OLRB dismisses OHSA retaliation complaint

A laid-off worker’s safety-retaliation complaint under the Occupational Health and Safety Act has been dismissed because it was really a complaint about management’s assessment of his performance – not about safety.

The worker complained that after management “split supervision” of his department between two supervisors, the supervisors were not “competent” as they did not understand the workplace and work requirements, leading to the worker receiving unfavorable performance reviews.  He claimed that this violated the employer’s duty under the OHSA to appoint a competent supervisor.  He also said, in his safety-reprisal complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, that he had been laid off in retaliation for raising this issue.

The OLRB noted that under the OHSA, “competence” of a supervisor is to be considered in the context of the health and safety purposes of the OHSA.  It does not include concerns about the expertise or experience of supervisors to give directions or evaluate work.

Here, the worker’s complaints, which had continued for several years before he had been laid off, were about his frustration with management’s perception of his performance and their failure to change his job classification.  His complaints were not about safety.  Therefore, he had not been retaliated against under the OHSA and his OLRB proceeding was dismissed.  The worker later asked the OLRB to reconsider its decision, and that request was also dismissed.

Jean (John) Dionne v MacLean Engineering, 2016 CanLII 45959 (ON LRB)

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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