The Ontario Labour Relations Board has dismissed a reprisal
complaint under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
because the employee's allegations – which included
"gossip" – did not rise to the level of
"harassment" as defined in the OHSA.
The employee, a male teacher, alleged that two female teachers
had harassed him. According to the OLRB, he relied on the following
alleged harassing behaviour: one teacher's "teaching
methods and style, her alleged tardiness and her alleged lack of
attention to matters of student health and safety during lab
work"; the same teacher "allegedly spread gossip about
another teacher" (not the employee himself); the two teachers
"declined his suggestion to meet to discuss departmental
issues"; the two teachers "confronted him on one occasion
about his criticisms of [one of the teachers] as a teacher";
and one teacher "shouted at him once to turn off the lights in
the course of a meeting."
As for the shouted admonition to turn the lights off, the OLRB
stated that it "amounts to a single instance of
rudeness." At best, the OLRB decided, there was a personality
conflict between the male teacher and the female teacher who asked
him to turn off the lights. "That kind of problem can and
should be resolvable as between adult professionals. In the
circumstances of this case it is quite simply not workplace
The OLRB's decision is a welcome suggestion that personality
conflicts that do not rise to the level of harassment should not
become legal issues bogging down the employer and co-workers. Such
disputes should be resolved internally and, if possible, between
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