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Termination upheld for Health Canada worker who threatened boss with violence after leave request denied

by HR Law Canada

The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) has upheld the dismissal of a Health Canada employee who threatened violence towards her manager following the refusal of a leave request.

In July 2014, following her manager’s refusal, S.W. wrote an email to her bargaining agent representative indicating that one day soon she would “snap” and commit violence towards her manager.

S.W., who worked with Health Canada from 2002 until 2014, was terminated following an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing prompted by the concerning email. The Board, re-examining the case, saw no reason to reverse the termination, noting the severity of the threat made by the employee.

In the judicial review, arguments were presented concerning the admissibility of an affidavit considered “fresh evidence” by the S.W. However, the court found the material was not new and dismissed the motion.

The standard applied in reviewing the Board’s decision was based on reasonableness, with the Supreme Court of Canada’s criteria highlighting that “a reasonable decision is one that is based on an internally coherent and rational chain of analysis,” as underscored in the 2019 Vavilov ruling. The court also examined the fairness of the Board’s process, ultimately finding the decision and procedure fair.

The Board utilized a well-established framework to determine the justification for the applicant’s termination, looking into whether there were grounds for discipline and if the penalty imposed was appropriate.

Despite S.W.’s acknowledgment of misconduct, she contended her actions were influenced by workplace bullying and harassment. The Board considered these factors but noted a lack of medical evidence to significantly mitigate the threat’s severity, stating, “the Board could ‘only go so far’ in assigning weight…without medical evidence of a diminished mental state.”

Moreover, the court found no errors in the Board’s approach to the applicant’s procedural fairness arguments, noting that she was represented by counsel and had a full chance to respond during the proceedings.

S.W.’s request for anonymity in the decision was also denied based on the open court principle, a decision that the reviewing court upheld.

In conclusion, the applicant’s attempt to overturn her termination has been rejected, with the court finding no basis for intervention in the Board’s reasoned and transparent decision-making process. The court dismissed the application for judicial review, and as the respondent Attorney General of Canada withdrew their request for costs, none will be awarded.

For more information, see Wepruk v. Canada (Attorney General), 2024 FCA 55 (CanLII)

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