In a recent decision, the British Columbia Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) ruled against a worker who had filed a complaint alleging prohibited action by their employer.
The case involved James, a facilities operations manager who claimed mistreatment and wrongful termination by the company.
James filed a prohibited action complaint with the Workers’ Compensation Board (WorkSafeBC) on Sept. 8, 2022. However, a Board Legal Adjudicative Officer reviewed the case and determined that James had not presented a prima facie case of prohibited action, meaning there was no basic evidence to support his claim.
The officer’s decision, dated Sept. 22, 2022, concluded that the employer had not taken prohibited action against James.
Worker claims he was ignored, discredited and yelled at
Undeterred, James decided to appeal the decision to the WCAT. Representing himself, James argued that he had been subjected to various forms of mistreatment by his employer, including being ignored, discredited, insulted, and yelled at.
He claimed that these actions created a hostile work environment and ultimately led to his termination.
The employer, on the other hand, maintained that James had failed to fulfill his job responsibilities adequately, refused to perform certain tasks, and displayed conduct that rendered him unsuitable for employment. They argued that his termination was unrelated to any safety concerns or prohibited action.
During the appeal process, James requested an oral hearing, but after reviewing the evidence and considering the complexity of the case, the WCAT Vice Chair concluded that a written resolution was sufficient. Both parties submitted written statements and documents supporting their positions.
In the decision released by Vice Chair Christopher Ramsay, the tribunal thoroughly examined the evidence presented by James.
The analysis followed a four-step process: determining whether there were negative employment consequences, whether James engaged in protected safety activities, whether there was a causal connection between the consequences and the safety activities, and finally, whether the employer’s actions were motivated by anti-safety animus.
Ultimately, the WCAT denied James’s appeal, ruling that he had not established a prima facie case of prohibited action. The Vice Chair noted that James had failed to provide sufficient evidence of engaging in protected safety activities and that there was no clear causal connection between his termination and any safety concerns. Furthermore, the employer was able to demonstrate valid reasons for terminating James’s employment unrelated to safety issues.
The tribunal emphasized that while James’s complaints might be valid grounds for other claims such as wrongful dismissal or a mental disorder, they did not fall under the purview of prohibited action as defined by the Act. Therefore, the WCAT’s decision confirmed the Board’s initial finding that the employer had not taken prohibited action against James.
As a result of the denial of the appeal, James’s request for damages was also rejected. The tribunal made no orders for the reimbursement of appeal expenses.
The case serves as a reminder that while workplace disputes can arise, not all grievances fall within the scope of prohibited action under workers’ compensation regulations.
For more information, see A2202226 (Re), 2023 CanLII 60566 (BC WCAT)