The Case: Le Safecross First Aid Limited, a recent decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board

The Issue:

The employee made a complaint to his company about safety conditions in the workplace. He complained the conditions caused him to suffer ongoing knee pain and discomfort. 

Shortly after, he was terminated by the company.

The company argued there were other reasons for his termination, but ultimately the Board concluded that those reasons were unjustified and, therefore, the true reason must have been that the employee made a complaint about the safety conditions in the workplace.

The company alleged that it has made a final, written warning to the employee about his poor performance before he made the complaint. However, the employee disputed this and, because the company did not call sufficient evidence about this, the Board concluded that the final warning actually meant that the company, shortly before the termination, must have believed that a further warning, rather than termination, was justified. Therefore, the company, in trying to establish other reason(s) for termination other than the complaint, actually prejudiced its own case. An interesting feature about the case. 

Pursuant to the reprisal provisions of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Board ordered the reinstatement of the employee and that the company had to pay him his lost wages for the period between his termination and the reinstatement date.

The Lesson:

Employers should be careful when terminating an employee and consider all of the information on hand. If termination for cause is alleged, particularly, due consideration must be given to the justification for doing so. In this case, the employer’s own strategy backfired. Employees are protected to make legitimate safety-related related complaints about the workplace.