Safety Committee Co-Chair Disciplined for Insubordination, Must Raise Matters in “Appropriate Forum”

A long-time co-chair of a plant safety committee has been disciplined after he confronted the employer in a “crew talk” meeting for failing to consult with the safety committee before implementing a new drug and alcohol policy.

The employer scheduled crew talk meetings to introduce employees to the policy and permit them to ask questions.  The co-chair, a welder, attended the crew talk meeting with the maintenance employees.  At the end of the meeting, the co-chair asked why the company had not involved the safety committee in the rolling out of the policy.  He became agitated and continued asking questions after management told him to stop.

The arbitrator decided that the co-chair’s “emotional impulse” about the safety committee not being consulted, caused him to engage in insubordinate behaviour at the crew talk meeting.  The co-chair’s long service of 29 years, and virtually clean disciplinary record, did not support the employer’s contention that this was a “premeditated offence”. Instead, it was “spur of the moment”.

The one-day suspension imposed by the company was set aside, and a written warning was substituted, which the arbitrator believed “will bring home to the grievor that insubordinate behaviour to management officials is inappropriate and wrong and that if he wants to raise such matters again in the future, he must do so in the appropriate forum.”

Tolko Industries Ltd v United Steelworkers, Local 1-417, 2013 CanLII 39125 (BC LA)

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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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