An electrician’s comment, “Don’t worry about me, I carry weapons” and “it would really feel good to kill something today” constituted workplace violence but did not warrant dismissal, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has held.
The employee had a strained relationship with an Electrical Foreman. When a female co-worker noticed her in distress about the presence of the foreman, she offered to accompany the employee to the washroom. The employee then made the “weapons” comment, afterwards saying that she was referring to the tools that she carries such as an electrician’s knife and spud wrench, but that she would never harm anyone except to defend herself. Later in the day, in a meeting with her supervisor and union representatives, she complained again about the foreman and said that she “had a knife”.
An investigator concluded that the employee had made “violent comments” and was emotionally unstable.
The OLRB decided that the employee’s comments “could reasonably be interpreted to constitute a threat to exercise injurious or potentially injurious physical force.” However, there was nothing premeditated about the threats and there was no previous pattern of threatening conduct on her part. She was “guilty of having engaged in violent threats, but in comparing them with the kinds of behaviour in the cases cited to me by both parties, her comments were at the lower end of the spectrum.”
The OLRB did not believe that the employee was likely to repeat “such extreme conduct” or that she was a threat to the safety and well-being of other employees. The dismissal was, therefore, excessive.
Canadian Union of Skilled Workers v Hydro One Inc, 2014 CanLII 44660 (ON LRB)