A supervisor's e-mails to an employee were not harassing, an
arbitrator has held, noting the employee's friendly tone
– "great game Thurs night" – and use of the
"smiley face" in his replies to the supervisor's
The employee, who was unionized, filed a grievance alleging that
the employer, by permitting the supervisor's
allegedly-harassing e-mails, violated an article of the collective
agreement that required the employer to "make reasonable
provisions for the safety and health" of employees.
The e-mail exchange was about problems with the
employee's time cards. The employee claimed that the
supervisor's questions about his time cards were akin to
"calling me a thief and a liar".
The arbitrator cited the following definition of harassment,
from another arbitration case:
"Harassment includes words, gestures and actions which tend
to annoy, torment, pester, persecute, bother and embarrass another
person, as well as subjecting someone to vexatious attacks,
questions, demands or other unpleasantness. A single act,
which has a harmful effect, may also constitute
The arbitrator decided that the supervisor was simply fulfilling
his legitimate responsibilities in his supervisory position,
attempting to resolve discrepancies in the employee's recorded
hours of work.
The employee's friendly tone in his reply to the
supervisor's e-mails, was also noted by the arbitrator.
In one e-mail, the employee wrote, "p.s. great game
Thurs night", and he used his nickname "Chiser" and
a "smiley face". In another e-mail, the employee
addressed the supervisor, "Hey Eddie, . . . we can chat next
week" and also added a "smiley face". The tone
of the e-mail exchange did not show any animosity towards the
This decision demonstrates the wisdom of supervisors using a
temperate tone, wherever possible, in their e-mails to employees.
It also shows that a supervisor's legitimate exercise of his or
her duties will not, in general, be considered harassment.
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