It was not "harassment" for a manager to mention the
College of Nurses of Ontario and remind nurses of their
professional obligations, an arbitrator has held.
The nurses worked at the Central East Correctional Centre. In a
meeting, the manager reminded nurses that they should not be
sleeping or watching movies during the night shift, and discussed
changes to the "break routine". Some nurses appeared to
be resisting the manager's message regarding sleeping and
watching movies. One nurse asked a "question" about
whether nurses should respond to emergencies during unpaid breaks,
which the arbitrator took as a threat of retribution in response to
changes to the breaks. The manager reminded them of their
professional obligations as nurses and referred to the College of
Nurses of Ontario.
The nurses complained that the mention of professional
obligations, and of the College of Nurses of Ontario, was
threatening and amounted to harassment. They argued that it carried
the implication that the nurses could face professional penalties
for resisting changes to break times.
The arbitrator disagreed, and was critical of the nurses:
"The union asserted that the employer's references to
the [College of Nurses of Ontario] were wholly unnecessary, and
that the grievors were fully aware of, and did not need to be
reminded of their professional responsibilities. Given the comments
made in response to both issues, this was apparently not the case.
If they had been aware, or if that awareness had been in their
minds during the meeting, it is unlikely that they would have
reacted by defending the right to sleep while on duty or raising
the issue of not responding to emergencies because they did not
find favour the employer's position with respect to breaks. To
my mind, the employer's reminder of the professional
obligations was justified and apt."
In conclusion, the arbitrator held that the nurses had not been
"threatened, intimidated or harassed". Instead, the
"employer was engaged in an attempt to manage improper
workplace behaviour". The reference to the College of Nurses
of Ontario was an appropriate answer to the inappropriate
"question" that carried the implication that nurses might
not respond to emergencies on unpaid breaks. The nurses'
reaction was "irrational and cannot be explained on the basis
of the employer's approach to the meeting."
This decision is another reminder that an employer's
legitimate management of the workplace is not harassment.
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