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B.C. Labour Relations Board upholds termination of professor who filed false sexual harassment allegations

by HR Law Canada

A university professor, fired after filing a false sexual harassment complaint against a female colleague, has lost his bid to challenge the arbitration ruling that led to his dismissal.

The British Columbia Labour Relations Board upheld the arbitrator’s ruling, which was handed down in January 2024 and previously reported on by HR Law Canada.

The applicant, S.N., was terminated from a university after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a female colleague. The complaint, which alleged misconduct occurring more than two years prior, was later determined to be knowingly false based on an investigation conducted by a third party.

The investigator’s report concluded the allegations were made in bad faith, leading to the S.N.’s dismissal.

During the arbitration, it was essential to establish, on a balance of probabilities, whether the applicant had just cause to make the allegations. Both parties presented conflicting accounts, with no witnesses to their interactions. The arbitration leaned heavily on established jurisprudence for assessing witness credibility and reliability.

Arbitrator De Aguayo noted, “Credibility is to be assessed in light of considerations that a practical and informed person would recognize as reasonable in those conditions.” She cited key legal precedents, including the framework from Faryna v. Chorny, which addresses how to approach the credibility of conflicting stories.

In her ruling, De Aguayo stated, “For all the reasons that follow, I find the Grievor’s testimony is not credible.” She detailed the inconsistencies and implausibilities in the applicant’s account, contrasting these with the respondent’s consistent and probable narrative. This led her to conclude that the applicant’s allegations placed “too great a strain upon one’s sense of the realities of life,” thus dismissing the grievance.

S.N. contested the arbitration’s deviation from a specific methodological approach for assessing credibility, arguing it was inconsistent with legal principles. However, the Board upheld the arbitrator’s holistic approach, finding no palpable error that would warrant overturning the decision.

“In the present case, the Arbitrator was aware the real substance of the matter in dispute was grounded in the witnesses’ contradictory and mutually exclusive stories, they considered the general principles relevant to assessing witness testimony as set out in Faryna, and they turned their mind to relevant considerations arising from the witnesses’ testimony,” the Board concluded.

For more information, see Shoaib Nasir (Re), 2024 BCLRB 58 (CanLII).

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