An employer has lost a wrongful dismissal case after a court
found that its safety rules, which it alleged the employee
violated, were unclear and not clearly-communicated.
The employee worked at a solid waste facility in the Yukon. The
employer fired the employee and attempted to prove “just
cause” on the basis of absenteeism, poor working
relationships, use of company cell phone for personal calls, and
With respect to safety, the employer claimed that the employee
did not like to wear her safety vest and steel-toed boots, despite
it being a job requirement, and that the employee was constantly
reminded to wear her hard hat. The employee acknowledged that she
knew that if she did not comply with the safety rules, she would be
fired; however, she said that the rules were unclear and she had
asked that they be written down.
The court decided that the hard hat requirement was not clearly
set out by the employer, and was not included in the
employer’s “Employee Guidelines” document. The
“I find that the Society did not take the necessary
steps to ensure that there was a clear and unequivocal set of
rules, guidelines and/or policies that made it clear what equipment
was to be worn at what locations and at what times. I find that, to
the extent that there was some verbal direction provided, this
direction was not entirely clear and cannot be relied upon as
establishing a standard that Ms. Goncharova can then be viewed as
The power to establish clear and unequivocal standards and
requirements lay with the Society. It simply was not
The employer also failed to prove that the absenteeism,
relationship issues and cell phone use justified the dismissal.
This case illustrates the importance of clear communication of
safety rules where the employer wishes to discipline or dismiss the
employee for a violation of those rules.
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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.
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