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Federal court dismisses Canada Post worker’s challenge of COVID-19 vaccination policy

by HR Law Canada

A Canada Post employee, referred to here as DM, argued that any action labeled as misconduct under the Employment Insurance Act should have been specified as such in the initial job contract in an appeal of a ruling that denied him EI benefits while on an unpaid leave for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Federal Court of Canada, however, disagreed, stating that misconduct can be based on policies introduced after an employee has started their job. This means that even if a policy wasn’t part of the original job contract, it could still lead to a misconduct ruling.

The case involved an application for judicial review filed by DM, a Canada Post worker who was placed on unpaid leave for about eight months after refusing to comply with its vaccination policy.

The policy, introduced by Canada Post in October 2021, required employees to either declare their vaccination status or seek a human rights exemption. Non-compliance meant employees would be placed on leave without pay. DM, who chose not to disclose his vaccination status, subsequently faced suspension and was denied employment insurance (EI) benefits by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC). The CEIC deemed his suspension as misconduct under the Employment Insurance Act.

DM’s request for reconsideration was unsuccessful. He stated his unwillingness to disclose his medical information and disagreement with the policy. The Social Security Tribunal (SST) supported the CEIC’s decision, and its Appeal Division later denied his appeal on Dec. 29, 2022.

Seeking judicial review, DM challenged the Appeal Division’s decision. The court found his arguments primarily expressed disagreement with the tribunal’s decisions and the policy itself, rather than demonstrating any unreasonableness in the Appeal Division’s decision. It noted that the SST and the court were not the appropriate forums for challenging the employer’s policy or addressing issues like the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Furthermore, DM’s introduction of new evidence, including news articles and social media posts, was deemed largely inadmissible, as they did not meet the criteria for consideration in judicial review. The court emphasized that its review scope was limited to assessing the reasonableness of the SST’s Appeal Division decision and not to re-examine the facts or policies.

In conclusion, the Federal Court dismissed his application, acknowledging his frustration but underscoring the legal constraints on the lower tribunals and the court’s jurisdiction in such reviews.

For more information, see Matti v. Canada (Attorney General), 2023 FC 1527 (CanLII)

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