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Saskatchewan company didn’t have cause to fire worker who fell, lied about location: Labour Board

by HR Law Canada

A Saskatchewan employer has lost its bid to have an arbitration ruling overturned involving an employee it fired after he suffered a workplace fall.

The employee, LW, began working for Prairie Machine & Parts Manufacturing on March 2, 2018. He was fired, for cause, on March 10, 2022, after he reported falling on company property.

The employer argued that LW was dishonest about the fall’s location, a claim the worker attributed to possible confusion after suffering a head injury.

The fall

LW slipped and fell on snow or ice, hitting his head and causing injury to his ribs and shoulders. He was directed to seek medical attention and file a workers’ compensation (WCB) claim by Prairie’s health and safety manager.

LW saw a doctor and filed the WCB claim, as directed.

But video footage from Prairie’s on-site cameras did not corroborate LW’s report with respect to where he fell, which was near an entranceway. The original adjudicator, Doug Surtees, noted that LW may have mistakenly reported the location because he had hit his head. Surtees also mused that it was possible LW misreported the location to pressure management into ensuring the area near the entranceway was better maintained.

There was evidence before him that employees regularly complained to the company about the area near the entranceway. When LW returned for his next scheduled shift, on March 14, 2022, he was dismissed.

Was there just cause?

Surtees had to consider whether Prairie had just cause for termination and if a payroll deduction from LW’s final pay was permissible under The Saskatchewan Employment Act. Surtees concluded that even if LW was dishonest about his fall’s location, it wasn’t severe enough to justify dismissal. He also deemed the payroll deduction illegal under the Act.

Prairie appealed to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, asserting that LW’s cumulative misconduct, including the incident and previous equipment damage, warranted dismissal. However, the company hadn’t raised this argument in the initial adjudication.

The Board, adhering to procedural fairness, noted that LW and the Director of Employment Standards had no prior notice of this argument. Consequently, the Board found no legal error in the adjudicator’s approach of considering only the deceit regarding the fall.

In its analysis, the Board referred to the McKinley case from the Supreme Court, which outlines when employee deceit can justify dismissal. The Board concluded that Prairie failed to prove that LW’s alleged deceit was significant enough to break down the employment relationship.

The Board upheld the adjudicator’s decision, dismissing Prairie’s appeal and affirming the wage assessment.

For more information, see Prairie Machine & Parts Mfg. v Wall, 2023 CanLII 108792 (SK LRB)

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