In May 2016, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench released its
decision in Turner v Atco Frontec Corp., 2016 ABQB
265. This case addresses an employer's right to dismiss an
employee for cause in the situation where the relationship between
two employees has deteriorated and cannot be resolved, because of
the attitude and personality of an employee. The case also
addresses whether the employer has an obligation to transfer such
an employee to a different job or location rather than dismissing
In this case, the employee, John Turner, alleged that his
employment as a transport dispatcher for Atco Frontec Corp.
("Atco"), as part of Canada's NATO operation in
Bosnia, was wrongfully terminated. Mr. Turner was apparently
dedicated and good at his job, but had a hot temper. He had in the
past been issued a warning letter for his behaviour towards other
Mr. Turner's dismissal was precipitated by two incidents
with Elpis Florov, who was another transport dispatcher at Atco.
Mr. Turner had apparently threatened Ms. Florov and called her a
thief, which prompted Ms. Florov to make a formal harassment
complaint. At a meeting to review the complaint, Mr. Turner was
"aggressive and angry", and showed no desire to work out
the situation between him and Ms. Florov. At the end of the
meeting, Atco found that he had "conducted himself
intentionally or unintentionally in a manner that could be deemed
intimidating and threatening", but was unable to conclude he
had harassed Ms. Florov.
Following the meeting, Atco terminated Mr. Turner's
employment for cause, due to loss of confidence that he could
interact appropriately with other employees.
Just cause for dismissal?
Whether Atco had just cause to terminate Mr. Turner's
employment was at issue because he had not been found to have
harassed Ms. Florov. The Court had to decide whether an employer
had just cause to dismiss an employee who shows contempt for
previous intimidating behaviour towards another employee, and is
unwilling to resolve the problem between them, having earlier been
warned about his behaviour.
The Court found that Atco did have just cause to terminate Mr.
Turner's employment. In coming to this conclusion, the Court
was clear that the context of the work environment, where all
employees lived and worked in camp, was relevant.
Should Atco have moved Mr. Turner to a different job site?
The Court easily dismissed Mr. Turner's argument that Atco
had a duty to try to move Mr. Turner to a different job, on the
basis that in an employment contract dispute where there is no
human rights issue, the duty of accommodation does not come into
Turner v Atco Frontec Corp. demonstrates that in
certain situations, an employer can dismiss an employee for just
cause when there has been deterioration in that employee's
relationship with another employee. However, the Court's
emphasis on the camp working environment, on the intimidation of
Ms. Florov, and on previous incidents between Mr. Turner and other
employees, indicates that dismissals for this reason should be
carried out cautiously and with a full assessment of the factors in
play. It would likely be insufficient grounds for termination of
employment with cause, if two employees simply did not get
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.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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).