Home Arbitration/Labour Relations LCBO worker’s reprisal complaint put on hold by OLRB as arbitration proceeds

LCBO worker’s reprisal complaint put on hold by OLRB as arbitration proceeds

by HR Law Canada

A customer service representative at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has had his reprisal complaint adjourned by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).

The ruling came after the LCBO argued that the issues raised in the worker’s complaint were already being addressed through a grievance process before the Grievance Settlement Board (GSB).

The worker, C.N., filed the complaint under section 50(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, alleging that his transfer to a different store was an act of reprisal following his involvement in reporting workplace safety issues. The LCBO contended that since C.N. had already initiated a grievance procedure on the same matter, the OLRB should dismiss his complaint.

The case centers around a Dec. 29, 2023, incident at LCBO Store #320, where two employees were involved in an altercation. Employee #1 allegedly placed Employee #2 in a headlock, leading to Employee #2 reporting the incident and Employee #1 being sent home pending investigation. C.N., who was not present during the incident, was informed about it the next day.

Employee #2 later reported feeling uncomfortable with C.N.’s comments, which included suggestions that pressing charges against Employee #1, a close friend of C.N., could harm his future employment prospects.

“You should think about not pressing charges on (Employee #1) because he is just a kid,” C.N. said, according to an Investigation Notice. “You could ruin his chances of working again.”

There was also a reference made that Employee #2 could be harmed or have “slashed tires” on his vehicle.

C.N. was subsequently issued an investigation notice but faced no disciplinary action after an internal investigation concluded on Feb. 1, 2024.

C.N. was transferred from Store #320 to Store #7, which is within the “same geographic area,” according to the LBCO.

“The LCBO alleged that it had legitimate business reasons for the transfer of the applicant unrelated to the incident and its aftermath,” the Board said. “The applicant claimed that his transfer to Store #7 was a reprisal.”

C.N. filed an initial grievance on Jan. 24, 2024, and a revised grievance on March 14, 2024, alleging various violations, including harassment and failure to address safety concerns. The LCBO filed its response to C.N.’s complaint on March 8, 2024, requesting its dismissal under section 50(2) of the Act, arguing that he had elected to resolve the issues through arbitration.

The OLRB noted that both the initial and revised grievances arose from the same factual circumstances and sought similar remedies. The ruling cited previous cases, including Owens Corning Canada and SSP Canada The Food Travel Expert, which emphasized the legislature’s intent to prevent the duplication and confusion of litigating the same matter before multiple forums.

“Section 50(2) has been in the Act (and in its predecessor statute) for a specific reason; it directs the parties who have access to a grievance and arbitration procedure to elect or choose whether to proceed to arbitration under a collective agreement or file a complaint with the Board,” it said.

The decision to adjourn the application sine die for up to six months allows C.N. to request reactivation of his application by providing proof that his grievances have been withdrawn without prejudice. If no such request is made within six months, the application will be dismissed.

C.N.’s grievances highlight significant allegations, including claims that the LCBO failed to maintain a harassment-free workplace, did not adequately address workplace violence and harassment, and that his transfer was a retaliatory act. He sought remedies including the reversal of his transfer, removal of the Acting Manager, and comprehensive harassment training for management.

For more information, see Chiagoziem Nwoko v LCBO, 2024 CanLII 56754 (ON LRB).

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