“Arbitrators have recently shown a decreasing tolerance for threats or violence in the workplace”: Ontario Arbitrator


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An employee who was dismissed after threatening management in a suspension meeting was not entitled to reinstatement – even though the suspension being imposed in the meeting was unjust – an Ontario arbitrator has decided.

The employee, a nurse at a hospital, became upset in the suspension meeting and threatened to retaliate, stating that he had “a plan” to deal with the management present. He stood up on a number of occasions and pointed his finger at the managers. He also raised his voice and spoke in a stern manner. The arbitrator decided that a reasonable person in the room would have had reason to believe the employee was threatening them. This was not a momentary flare-up, but was the second incident in which the employee was unable to control his emotions and acted inappropriately.

Arbitrator John Stout stated that, “there is generally a greater concern today about threats and violence in the workplace. Arbitrators have recently shown a decreasing tolerance for threats or violence in the workplace”.

Most aggravating, according to the arbitrator, was the fact that the employee did not accept that he did anything wrong, and did not apologize. However, it was important that the suspension being imposed at the time of the employee’s outburst was not just; the outburst was not premeditated; the threats were not intended to be physical but threats of legal action. Dismissal, without compensation, was therefore an excessive response.

The arbitrator nevertheless denied reinstatement. The employee mistrusted the hospital and had contempt for management and even for his union. He blamed everyone else and accepted very little responsibility for his own actions. His relationship with the hospital was poisoned and a return to work would not fix it. Therefore, the arbitrator awarded the employee damages instead of reinstatement.

Humber River Regional Hospital v. O.N.A., 2012 CarswellOnt 8834 (Ontario Arbitrator)

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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