Home Accommodation ‘Business reasons for termination:’ Alberta worker, fired after injury, loses reinstatement bid

‘Business reasons for termination:’ Alberta worker, fired after injury, loses reinstatement bid

by HR Law Canada

The Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation has upheld a decision denying the reinstatement of a worker injured in a slip and fall accident.

Despite the worker’s insistence that his termination was related to the injury, the Commission found the employer acted in good faith and within the bounds of business necessity.

Background

The worker was involved in a work-related slip and fall accident on Feb. 22, 2021. He reported his injuries to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) on March 18, 2021, three days after his employment was terminated on March 15, 2021.

The employer notified the WCB of the incident on March 26, 2021, classifying it as a near-miss event due to the worker’s delay in reporting the injury.

Upon the WCB accepting the claim, the worker sought reinstatement under section 88.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), which, although repealed on April 1, 2021, still applied to this case due to the accident’s timing.

The WCB’s investigation concluded that the employer had valid business reasons for the termination, unconnected to the worker’s injury, and thus had no obligation to reinstate him.

Appeals process

The worker challenged the WCB’s decision, which was reviewed and upheld by the WCB’s Dispute Resolution and Decision Review Body (DRDRB). After a series of appeals and procedural delays, the worker brought the case before the Appeals Commission.

During the appeal, the worker’s representative argued that section 88.1(3) of the WCA mandated the employer to accommodate the worker unless it caused undue hardship.

The representative contended that the employer’s evidence did not adequately address the policy factors required to demonstrate undue hardship.

Commission’s analysis and decision

The Appeals Commission’s decision hinged on several key findings. Firstly, the Commission found that the worker continued to perform his regular duties until his termination on March 15, 2021. The evidence included the Worker Report of Injury and the Employer Report of Injury, both indicating that the worker did not miss work due to the accident before his termination.

The Commission also noted the lack of medical evidence indicating that the worker was unable to work due to the accident prior to his termination. This point was crucial because section 88.1(1) of the WCA required the worker to be unable to work due to the accident to trigger the obligation for reinstatement.

Furthermore, the Commission addressed the application of section 88.1(8) of the WCA, which allows employers to terminate workers for valid business reasons unrelated to their injury. The evidence demonstrated that the worker’s termination was part of a larger workforce reduction following a company merger, affecting numerous positions similar to the worker’s.

The Commission acknowledged the worker’s dissatisfaction and belief that he was targeted due to his injury history but emphasized its role was to interpret and apply existing legislation and policy, not to rectify perceived unfairness.

Conclusion

The Appeals Commission concluded that the employer did not have an obligation to reinstate the worker. The decision confirmed that the worker’s termination was due to business reasons related to a merger and was not influenced by his inability to work following the accident.

For more information, see Decision No.: 2024-0268, 2024 CanLII 59491 (AB WCAC).

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