Ontario court clerk suspended for workplace misconduct, insubordination

Tables and chairs in a courtroom. Photo: Nirat/Getty Images Pro/Canva

A unionized Ontario court clerk and registrar has been handed a seven-day suspension following a series of incidents that violated workplace policies, a penalty upheld at arbitration due to his attitude and refusal to take responsibility for his actions.

The decision, issued by arbitrator Diane Gee, came after a detailed grievance process involving the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Abandoning post

The incidents in question occurred in Toronto on Nov. 9, 2018, when the clerk, AB, assigned to Courtroom K, abandoned his post without authorization. This action contravened the explicit requirements of his role, which mandate presence in the courtroom unless excused by the presiding judge.

Additionally, AB was found to have misled the judge by stating that he would be replaced, a claim he knew to be false.

Moreover, AB’s interactions with both his supervisor and group leader were deemed aggressive and belligerent, breaching the Respectful Workplace Policy. This policy emphasizes the importance of maintaining a professional and courteous work environment.

“You attended your supervisor ‘s office whereby you preceded to challenge your supervisor regarding the direction provided to you to continue your court assignment; you exhibited aggressive and belligerent behaviour, you spoke inappropriately to your supervisor, yelling in the presence of co-workers, while flailing your arms and blocking her from exiting the room,” the suspension letter from the employer read.

The grievance board, after reviewing the evidence, determined that AB’s behavior towards his supervisor and group leader was not only unprofessional but also contributed to a negative work environment.

AB’s defense, which included assertions of anti-black racism, was not considered in the final ruling due to procedural reasons. The Union’s claim that these allegations were not pursued during the hearing led to their exclusion from the board’s considerations.

The suspension decision takes into account AB’s long service and clean disciplinary record. However, his lack of remorse and failure to acknowledge wrongdoing weighed heavily in the final determination.

The arbitrator said the penalty would have been reduced given AB’s lengthy and discipline free employment record and the fact it was an isolated incident.

“However, I am quite troubled by the attitude adopted by the grievor in this matter,” said Gee. “The grievor never once took any responsibility for his role in what transpired.”

“Rather, the grievor recited several excuses, most of which were not exculpatory, and some of which were untruthful, in an attempt to shift blame onto (his group leader).” 

For more information, see Ontario Public Service Employees Union (Benjamin) v Ontario (Attorney General), 2023 CanLII 115148 (ON GSB).

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