Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Firing of Canada Post worker who was ‘uncivil’ and ‘insubordinate’ upheld by arbitrator

Firing of Canada Post worker who was ‘uncivil’ and ‘insubordinate’ upheld by arbitrator

by HR Law Canada

Canada Post was justified in firing worker for cause who an arbitrator described as “generally agreeable” and a good worker because of a pattern of conduct and speech that were found to be “uncivil, insubordinate and disruptive.”

The worker grieved the termination through his union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). The grievances stem from various incidents where the Grievor’s conduct and speech were deemed insubordinate, aggressive, and lacking in respect and civility, ultimately culminating in his discharge from employment.

It was not clear from the ruling what role the worker held at Canada Post.

Central to the arbitration was the essential workplace principles of civility and respect which are foundational for maintaining proper function within the workplace. These principles intersect with issues such as insubordination, harassment, and discrimination, all of which were relevant in the Grievor’s case.

The arbitration highlighted key instances of the Grievor’s behaviour, including verbal altercations with colleagues and superiors, failure to adhere to workplace rules, and threatening conduct.

The May incident

Notably, on May 10, 2022, the Grievor’s interaction with a colleague was marked by aggression, where he used offensive language and refused to accept feedback.

He confronted a colleague with an unprovoked, aggressive inquiry — asking him if he had any more stories to write. When the colleague responded: “What’s that? What do you mean?” the Griever retorted with “You are a fucking piece of shit.”

When interviewed later about the incident, the Grievor called his colleague “Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney” and said he had taken five years off the Grievor’s life.

The July incident

On July 11, 2022, the Grievor arrived at work early, at 7:40 a.m, and was promptly informed by his supervisor to adhere to his scheduled start time. The Grievor reacted belligerently, using expletives and shouting, “Fuck this… This is bullshit. You are letting the 2nd wave start early.”

The supervisor asked him to lower his voice and stop swearing, which didn’t calm the situation. Instead, the Grievor escalated the confrontation by accusing another union representative and a supervisor of undermining him with a customer, yelling, “This guy and (a union representative) fucked me by going behind my back to see my customer.”

The October incident

On Oct. 13, 2022, another significant incident contributed to the escalating grievances. The situation unfolded when a superintendent, observed the Grievor starting his workday earlier than the official 8 a.m. start time, violating agreed workplace protocols.

Upon being instructed to cease work and leave the floor, the Grievor defied the directive, responding aggressively with statements such as “I am not going to leave” and instructing her to do her “fucking job.”

His combative stance continued even as another manager, intervened, with the Grievor dismissively telling him to learn his job properly from a previous manager.

The November incident

On Nov. 7, 2022, a supervisor reminded the Grievor that he was not wearing his safety vest, a mandatory safety requirement.

The Grievor, having momentarily removed the vest to take off his jacket, reacted vehemently to the reminder. His aggression escalated when he confronted another supervisor, accusing him of nitpicking and ominously stating, “It’s not safe here, it’s going to get a lot worse, and it’s going to get a lot worse for you, Mark.”

Such threatening behaviour continued as the Grievor accused the supervisor of lying and ruining his Christmas, labeling the situation as harassment.

This confrontation, marked by the Grievor’s refusal to engage in rational dialogue or follow basic safety protocols, further demonstrated his pattern of aggressive and disruptive conduct within the workplace.

Medical evidence

The medical evidence presented by the Union, pointing to the Grievor’s adjustment disorder with mild anxiety, was scrutinized. The arbitrator found this evidence insufficient to mitigate the Grievor’s actions, noting a lack of direct correlation between his medical condition and workplace misconduct.

“A medical disability and inappropriate workplace conduct may exist contemporaneously on parallel tracks, but it is only when those tracks cross over to connect the two that a connection is made between inappropriate workplace conduct and a medical condition making an employee’s medical condition relevant when assessing workplace conduct,” the arbitrator said.

Instead, emphasis was placed on the timeliness and relevance of medical reports, with greater weight given to the more recent evaluation indicating the Grievor was fit for work.

Throughout the decision, the arbitrator reiterated the importance of the grievance procedure as the proper channel for resolving disputes, criticizing the Grievor’s choice of “self-help” over formal grievance processes.

The case references, including Canada Post Corp. and CUPE (Torpy), reinforced the concept that workplace disputes should be handled through established procedures rather than individual defiance.

“Explicit in the award is that ‘self-help’ which includes disorderly disruptive conduct to achieve what should be pursued in the grievance procedure should not be tolerated,” the arbitrator said. “Disputes are to be resolved by the proper utilization of the grievance procedure.”

Disciplinary action

In reviewing the disciplinary actions taken against the Grievor, the arbitrator found a consistent pattern of conduct that violated the expected standards of the workplace.

Despite opportunities to correct his behaviour, the Grievor’s actions remained unchanged, leading to the conclusion that further corrective measures would be ineffective.

“It is apparent from all the evidence that the Grievor is a difficult employee who exercises no restraint on his overall conduct and his speech,” the arbitrator said. “He does not have a sense of workplace norms and says and does what he thinks is appropriate regardless of the situation and what he may have been directed to do.”

Ultimately, the arbitrator determined the discharge was justified, dismissing the grievance against unjust discharge.

For more information, see Canadian Union of Postal Workers v Canada Post Corporation, 2024 CanLII 22123 (ON LA).

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