Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Principals’ meeting with teacher, where allegations were unveiled and home assignment announced, was not disciplinary: Arbitrator

Principals’ meeting with teacher, where allegations were unveiled and home assignment announced, was not disciplinary: Arbitrator

by HR Law Canada

An arbitrator has dismissed a preliminary motion filed by a teachers’ federation seeking to void the termination of a secondary school teacher in Ontario.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) argued that the teacher was not provided adequate representation during a meeting that preceded his firing.

The teacher, employed by the Durham District School Board since 2002, was placed on paid home assignment in December 2019 following allegations of inappropriate conduct with students. These allegations included making improper physical contact and inappropriate comments of a racial and sexual nature.

The meeting, which included the principal and vice principal but no representatives from the federation, informed the teacher of the allegations and his home assignment.

Lack of union representation at meeting

The federation’s argument centered around the Board’s failure to offer union representation at the December 2019 meeting, claiming that it should make the subsequent termination null and void.

However, the arbitrator ruled that this meeting was not disciplinary in nature and therefore did not trigger the need for union representation, as per Articles L5.02 and L5.03 of the collective agreement between the parties.

According to the collective agreement, a teacher has the right to request union representation “if a teacher is to be disciplined or dismissed.” Another provision requires advance notification “where a Principal/Superintendent intends to interview a teacher for discipline.”

The Board conducted a comprehensive investigation into the allegations against the teacher. This included a meeting in March 2020, at which the teacher was represented by the federation. His employment was ultimately terminated in August 2020, and the letter of termination noted that Durham Children’s Aid verified the allegatoins against the grievor.

Meeting not disciplinary in nature

The federation only raised the issue of lack of representation at the initial meeting more than two years after the original grievance was filed, during the first day of the arbitration hearing in December 2022. Written submissions were completed by both parties in the spring of 2023.

In dismissing the preliminary motion, the arbitrator stated that the federation had not provided sufficient evidence to show that the December 2019 meeting was disciplinary in nature. The arbitrator also disagreed with the federation’s contention that the December 2019 meeting and a subsequent letter were relied upon for the termination.

This is a preliminary hearing and the arbitrator remains “seized to deal with the merits of the grievance.”

For more information, see Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation v Durham District School Board, 2023 CanLII 96356 (ON LA)

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