Labour board rejects Teva Canada’s bid to dismiss reprisal case from worker it fired over alleged lockout/tagout policy violation

Lockout/tag out (LOTO) is a safety procedure used to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and not able to be started again prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing. Photo: Hailshadow/Getty Images Signature/Canva

An employee of Teva Canada, terminated for allegedly violating the company’s lockout/tagout safety policy, will have his case move forward, according to a recent decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

The worker, SP, alleged he was fired in an act of reprisal after he reported a safety hazard.

On Aug. 17, 2023, the OLRB denied Teva Canada’s request to dismiss the workplace safety application filed by the worker — SP — under section 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The board was responding to Teva Canada’s motion to have SP’s case dismissed without a hearing or consultation, arguing that the application failed to make a prima facie violation of section 50 of the act. The company stated that SP was terminated for just cause after he allegedly violated its lockout/tagout (LOTO) policy.

Although the board had directed both parties to provide submissions by Aug. 16, 2023, it noted that SP had not submitted further input. Nonetheless, the absence of SP’s response did not deter the board from allowing the case to proceed.

In its decision, the board emphasized that its role was not to determine the just cause for the worker’s termination but to evaluate whether SP was penalized for complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act or seeking its enforcement.

SP alleges that in May 2022, he was asked to connect an electrical wire to a newly installed steam heater and discovered that the wire was live with no lockout/tagout. He claims to have reported this safety hazard to a senior technician the following day. Teva Canada has not addressed this specific allegation in its materials.

The board’s ruling stated, “The threshold that an applicant must meet in order to plead a prima facie violation of the act is a low one.” It went on to say that Teva Canada might still be able to prove that SP’s termination had no causal connection to his safety complaint, but dismissing the application at this stage would be premature.

The application is now referred to the Registrar to be scheduled for a one-day consultation.

For more information, see Suresh Patel v Teva Canada, 2023 CanLII 78936 (ON LRB)