A student’s violent acts in a classroom have led to a
dispute about the circumstances in which teachers may engage in a
work refusal for safety reasons.
The student was described as having a “history of violent
behavior”. He became violent one morning by hitting and
pushing staff and other students and kicking chairs. The student
was sent home, but when he returned to class, the teacher said that
she did not feel safe and she was removed from the classroom.
Apparently a Ministry of Labour inspector was called in and decided
not to make an order respecting the teacher’s alleged work
refusal. The union challenged that decision before the Ontario
Labour Relations Board. The inspector asked the OLRB to dismiss the
case based on oral submissions.
The inspector relied on section 3. 3 of Regulation 857
(“Teachers) under the Ontario Occupational Health and
Safety Act which provides that the work refusal provisions of
the OHSA do not apply to “a teacher where the circumstances
are such that the life, health or safety of a pupil is in imminent
jeopardy.” The inspector argued that, therefore, a teacher
may refuse to work only where he or she has reason to believe that
workplace violence is likely to endanger himself or herself, but
that if the violence is caused by a student, there would invariably
be a risk to other students and therefore the teacher would have no
right to refuse to work.
The OLRB held that it required further evidence before making a
decision on the case. In particular, the OLRB required evidence of
whether a student was “in imminent jeopardy”, which
could not be determined without a full hearing. The OLRB decided to
send the case to a full hearing.
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On Thursday, September 22, 2016, Dentons hosted a panel discussion about the management of liabilities and risks associated with environmental crises, including potential liabilities for directors and officers and provided insight into risk and liability techniques associated with environmental crisis management.
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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