A long-standing duty of fair representation grievance filed by a former employee of the City of Moose Jaw’s Fire Service has been dismissed by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board after more than 15 years.
The board cited the “inordinate delay” and potential procedural unfairness in making its ruling, calling it a “clear and obvious case for dismissal.”
The worker, DH, originally filed the complaint in October 2007, alleging that the Moose Jaw Firefighters Association failed to fairly represent him due to his sexual orientation.
The union countered that it had considered the grievances but found they would likely be unsuccessful in arbitration.
After DH requested the application be adjourned sine die, also known as an indefinite postponement, the complaint remained dormant from October 2007 to December 2022, a period of over 15 years. During this time, DH was on long-term disability until his retirement in December 2016.
Board reaches out
After no updates were provided on the complaint, the board contacted the involved parties multiple times in 2022 and 2023. Finally, on April 6, 2023, DH informed the board that he intended to proceed with his application.
In response, the union filed for summary dismissal, arguing that the extended delay amounted to abandonment of the complaint and would compromise procedural fairness if it continued.
The worker’s reply to the union’s application included timelines and newspaper articles outlining the historical context relevant to his case, notably legislation on same-sex marriage.
DH also sought to amend his application, claiming that parts of his timeline were mistakenly omitted. The union opposed the amendment, stating that it did not directly relate to their dismissal application. The board subsequently determined that the amendment request was moot in light of the overarching issue of delay.
Reasons for delay
In his reply, DH cited multiple reasons for the delay, including ongoing proceedings with other bodies, workplace stress, and personal life events. He also pointed out the “subtle scent” of discrimination, arguing that it could exist even in the absence of overt acts.
The board ultimately dismissed DH’s complaint, citing “inordinate delay” and “presumed prejudice” against the union. It found that personal circumstances and intervening events put forth by DH as reasons for the delay did not suffice to counteract the inherent unfairness to the union.
For more information, see Moose Jaw Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 553 v Hall, 2023 CanLII 88136 (SK LRB)