Home Arbitration/Labour Relations Grievance against LCBO over ‘toxic culture’ at Hunstville store – involving suspensions, transfers – slimmed down

Grievance against LCBO over ‘toxic culture’ at Hunstville store – involving suspensions, transfers – slimmed down

by HR Law Canada

A grievance against the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is proceeding, in part, following an investigation into inappropriate conduct at retail location in Huntsville, Ont., that was allegedly racially motivated.

The Grievance Settlement Board of Ontario heard the motion, brought by the LCBO, that sought to strike several particulars of grievances related to two workers — M.H. and T.S. — who were previously suspended for alleged misconduct. The workers are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Counsel for the LCBO argued that the original grievances had been expanded improperly and were too remote from the initial complaints. The LCBO had originally suspended the workers involved for 10 days, but that decision was rescinded and the workers were repaid in full for their losses during the suspension.

The LCBO replaced the punitive measures with a letter of counsel concerning the LCBO’s Respectful Workplace Policy. It also transferred the workers to stores in neighbouring municipalities in an effort to address the “toxic culture” in Huntsville.

“The Report, aside from specific concerns about the conduct of individual employees, determined that the workplace culture in the Store was such that ‘management needs to establish concrete mechanisms to address the workplace issues, concerns, and problems in the Store ranging from workplace discrimination and harassment, favouritism, lack of transparency and inequitable treatment of employee,'” the ruling said.

“Further, ‘management must eradicate the workplace dynamics leading to a poisonous (toxic) workplace culture in the Store.’ Underlying that report was a finding that there existed ‘a workplace in which a clique of female employees….run the store or dictates the culture of the store.'”

The transfers of the employees, claimed by the union to be disciplinary, were described by the employer as administrative decisions due to the toxic workplace culture at LCBO Store 106 in Huntsville.

The Board struck down claims by the workers related to reputational damage, mental health exacerbation linked to disciplinary actions, and lost promotional opportunities, stating they were either too remote or lacked substantive details linking them directly to the employer’s actions.

Regarding M.H. and T.S., the union contended that the letters of counsel were disciplinary and that the grievances, including adverse mental health impacts and reputational harm due to the transfers, remained unresolved. However, the Board found several of these claims unwarranted, directing the union to provide more detailed particulars.

“The remedial actions, including the retraction of suspensions and subsequent counselling, do not fully address the core grievances raised, particularly as they pertain to the ongoing impacts on the grievors’ professional and personal circumstances,” stated the arbitrator. This decision allows the remaining aspects of the grievances to proceed, focusing on the substantive allegations of workplace discrimination and the appropriateness of the transferred remedies.

The arbitrator remains seized of the matter. A grievance for a third worker in this case, J.S., was moved to a later time.

For more information, see Ontario Public Service Employees Union (Hansen et al) v Ontario (Liquor Control Board), 2024 CanLII 29936 (ON GSB).

You may also like

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.