An adjudicator has criticized an employer's motivational
presentation as "offensive, distasteful and inappropriate as a
motivational tool", but found that it was not illegal.
The presentation was delivered by a Regional Manager with the
Ontario Ministry of Transportation to Transportation Enforcement
Officers employed by that Ministry. It was called, "New
Year New Outlook".
The presentation contained "graphic imagery of poverty in
the developing world" and compared this imagery to
"trivial" problems in the developed world. One slide
asked, "If you think your salary is low, how about her?"
accompanied by a photo of a child. Another slide asked,
"Why do we complain?" while the next slide stated,
"Let's Have New Expectations!"
Some employees, noting that the collective agreement was set to
be negotiated that year, felt that the presentation was a tool to
disincentivize the union from bargaining an advantageous agreement
for them. One employee said she felt that the presentation
was calling her and other employees lazy and insinuating that they
demanded too much. Employees felt that the presentation was
condescending and presumptuous and suggested that they were lucky
to have jobs.
The union argued that since the majority of the images of
poverty in the developing world showed people of colour, the use of
those images violated the Human Rights Code. The
adjudicator, a member of the Grievance Settlement Board, noted that
none of the employees asserted that they have racial
characteristics that were protected under the Code; hence,
there was no discrimination proven.
The union also argued that the presentation constituted
harassment under the Human Rights Code. The
adjudicator rejected that argument because the union had not even
"asserted that the harassment alleged to have taken place was
because of a protected characteristic possessed by any of the"
Lastly, the adjudicator decided that there were no facts
asserted that showed that any of the employees suffered any
discriminatory treatment because of their union membership or
activity. The employer's message that they should be
content with their employment terms was not discriminatory because
of their union membership.
The adjudicator went on to state that by deciding that the
presentation did not violate the collective agreement or
the Human Rights Code, he was not saying that the
presentation was "fine". Instead, he stated:
"The Board's acceptance for purposes of this motion
that the presentation was offensive, distasteful and inappropriate
as a motivational tool, cannot possibly lead to a finding that any
of the collective agreement or statutory rights of the grievors
were violated . . . The dismissal of these grievances on the basis
of absence of jurisdiction is certainly not, and ought not be seen
as, a finding by the Board that the employer conduct was
'fine' or that the Board endorses such conduct. The
fact that 39 individuals found the presentation to be offensive to
such an extent to cause them to grieve, speaks for itself. The
employer, through communications of regret/apology appears to have
realized that the presentation was negatively received by a large
number of employees."
The grievance against the presentation was therefore
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Labour and employment law had some interesting developments in 2016. What follows are a few highlights from the last year and an introduction to an issue that may attract significant attention in 2017.
Businesses and employers face exposure to a variety of claims for mismanagement or misuse of personal information by employees. Damages may depend on how sensitive the information is and how it is misused.
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