An employee need not physically assault a co-worker in order to
be dismissed for workplace violence, an arbitrator's decision
The employer had 8 "Golden Rules" of workplace health,
safety and environmental standards. The employee had signed a
document that said he understood that failure to comply with the
Golden Rules and all other posted plant safety rules "may
result in disciplinary action up to and including
Less than 3 months later, the employee got into an altercation
with a co-worker. There was yelling, swearing and abusive
language. A third employee intervened to separate the two
employees when it looked like they were about to hit each
The employer's investigation found that the employee had
called the other employee, who was said to have a heavy
build, a "fatass" and made a derogatory reference to
the other employee's sexual orientation. When the
third employee tried to break up the altercation, the
employee continued to argue with and antagonize the other
employee. Also, both men had removed their hard hats,
indicating that they were preparing to hit each other with their
The union argued that this incident of fighting and violence was
at the "low end" of the spectrum. The union noted
that there was no physical contact between the fighting employees;
"it was all words". Also, there were no physical
The arbitrator disagreed, finding that the employee chose
to use words that directly attacked the other
employee's physical appearance and his sexual
orientation. This was "over and above both
employees' use of more traditional, garden-variety,
profanities". Further, "particularly hurtful
comments directed at an individual's appearance can, even in
the absence of physical violence, warrant termination of
employment". Further, the employee continued to
"egg on" the other employee after the third
employee tried to break up the altercation. Lastly, the
plant operated around the clock and the employer required all
employees, who had been trained on its workplace violence policy,
to exercise some degree of self-restraint. The employee had,
instead, tried to escalate to physical violence and likely would
have done so if the third employee had not intervened.
The employee had only 15 months of service, had received
extensive training on the employer's workplace violence policy
and harassment policy, and had been given a copy of the
employer's "Golden Rules". He showed very little
insight into how his own behaviour was a contributing factor.
He did not see himself as accountable for his own actions. He
did not apologize until the day of the hearing.
Dentons is a global firm driven to provide you with the
competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected
marketplace. We were formed by the March 2013 combination of
international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner
Casgrain LLP (FMC) and international law firm SNR Denton.
Dentons is built on the solid foundations of three highly
regarded law firms. Each built its outstanding reputation and
valued clientele by responding to the local, regional and national
needs of a broad spectrum of clients of all sizes –
individuals; entrepreneurs; small businesses and start-ups; local,
regional and national governments and government agencies; and
mid-sized and larger private and public corporations, including
international and global entities.
Now clients benefit from more than 2,500 lawyers and
professionals in 79 locations in 52 countries across Africa, Asia
Pacific, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and
the CIS, the UK and the US who are committed to challenging the
status quo to offer creative, actionable business and legal
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances. Specific Questions relating to
this article should be addressed directly to the author.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
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.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
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.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).