Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Tenured prof at Toronto Metropolitan University has suspension slashed from 2 weeks to 2 days for violating civility policy

Tenured prof at Toronto Metropolitan University has suspension slashed from 2 weeks to 2 days for violating civility policy

by HR Law Canada

A tenured professor at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) has had her suspension for allegedly breaching the school’s policy on workplace civility and respect reduced from two weeks to two days by an arbitrator.

The dispute centered around a disciplinary letter issued to the professor, KS, on Feb. 12, 2020, stemming from alleged violations during faculty and school council meetings. KS, employed by the University since 1997, had previously maintained a clean disciplinary record barring one reprimand.

Key allegations included her disruptive conduct and inappropriate communications at meetings, and her accusatory tone against other faculty members, particularly the school’s director. Claims included misappropriation of funds, conflicts of interest, and significant inadequacies within the school.

The tensions reportedly created a toxic and uncomfortable work environment, significantly impacting the meeting’s productivity and the willingness of colleagues to speak freely.

Contrastingly, KS portrayed her participation as civil and attributed the tensions to a broader toxic work culture within the school. She denied her role in creating discomfort and silencing her colleagues, insisting her concerns were valid and the tension was a collective responsibility.

The arbitration focused heavily on the April 2019 school council meeting, where KS’ accusations of financial impropriety and conflicts of interest against the director were highlighted. Despite her claims of uncivil treatment by the director and others, the evidence, according to the arbitrator, did not substantiate these allegations.

Ultimately, the arbitrator found her conduct in violation of the Civility Policy, determining that her feedback, regardless of its relevance, was delivered in a manner that was not respectful or courteous.

“The content of her critical comments and the manner in which they were delivered were unwelcome and unprofessional, and furthermore caused offence and emotional harm to the complainants,” the arbitrator said. “Several of the complainants testified that that they dread attending meetings where she is present.  Her lack of insight into the impact her conduct has on others is troubling.”

The arbitrator ruled that while the University had just cause for discipline, a two-week suspension was excessive. It noted that dysfunction in the school meetings was a “problem of a long-standing nature” and the University’s pace in dealing with it was a mitigating factor.

A two-day suspension was deemed more appropriate, aligning with principles of progressive discipline. The arbitrator also noted the University’s failure to offer further coaching as a missed opportunity for constructive engagement.

For more information, see Toronto Metropolitan University v Toronto Metropolitan Faculty Association, 2024 CanLII 2021 (ON LA).

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