An Ontario arbitrator has upheld the discharge of a "modern
day prophet" who stated, "the first element to attack is
water – the next is fire" after being told that she
was suspended for five days.
The employer had issued the five-day suspension to the employee
for carelessly packing defective product. The employee asked
to speak with the plant manager, and then made the water-fire
statement. Her statement had particular poignancy because of
a serious flood at the facility approximately one year earlier.
The employer discharged the employee. The union
grieved. At the arbitration hearing, the employee testified
that "there was too much wickedness in the plant" and
that the manager's disciplinary decisions had been wicked and
unreasonable. She stated that she was a religious person and
that she believed that bad things happen to wicked people.
She also said that she had no intention of starting any fires and
did not intend any threat. She refused to apologize.
Arbitrator Norman Jesin referred to Bill 168 which added
workplace violence provisions to the Ontario Occupational Health
and Safety Act. He decided that the employer had just cause
to discharge the employee. Even if the water-fire statement
was not a threat, it was made in a loud and aggressive manner and
was an attempt to intimidate the plant manager into reconsidering
the five-day suspension. The arbitrator stated that,
"The grievor would have me believe that she is a modern day
prophet simply issuing a warning for the benefit" of the plant
manager. "But I have no doubt that the comments were designed
to scare [the manager] into rescinding the suspension."
In light of the employee's disciplinary record (a previous
one-day and three-day suspension), and particularly in light of the
employee's failure to show any remorse, the arbitrator upheld
This decision is part of what appears to be a trend towards
arbitrators taking a hard line on threats of violence (see a
previous blog post on this issue
U.S.W. v. Plastipak Industries Inc., 2012 CarswellOnt 7659
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Ten days following the election, join us for a discussion with Gary Doer, former Canadian Ambassador to the US, and Gordon Giffin, US Ambassador to Canada under Bill Clinton, to discuss how the new President and Congressional makeup will shape US-Canada relations for years to come.
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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