Labour board upholds ruling against employee for stopping production line over fight

The employee claimed he stopped the assembly line out of concern for his co-worker but the arbitrator was weary of his explanation.
The employee claimed he stopped the assembly line out of concern for his co-worker but the arbitrator was weary of his explanation. (Photo:iStock)

In employee/employer disputes, many times the deciding factor in a decision rests upon credibility.

In the following case, the Ontario Labour Relations Board found not only that a former employee wasn’t very credible but also that he refused work just to be difficult.

The case centered on an employee working as an assembler at a manufacturing plant having stopped a production line because he claimed two other employees had been engaged in a fight and he had been afraid for the safety of one of them. He was dismissed shortly after this event and brought a complaint to the board.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario, employees have the right to refuse work if they genuinely believe that their health and safety are in danger or possibly the safety of another worker.

From the beginning, the arbitrator found holes in the employee’s story.

It seems that the employee had already produced a few defective products before he ever pushed the button that night, which was considered “a significant number of defects.”

That wasn’t everything the arbitrator found: the employee had a history of disciplinary issues and his employment was already at risk.

The employee claimed he stopped the assembly line out of concern for his co-worker but the arbitrator was weary of his explanation, especially after he pushed the stop button a second time even after the worker he was concerned about assured him he was fine.

His employer told him to come to a meeting to explain his actions but he never showed up and was terminated from his position.

The arbitrator found that the employee did not validly refuse work, because work refusal under the OHSA is more concerned about a worker believing he himself is in danger and less with a co-worker being in jeopardy, especially as the alleged fight was about 25-30 feet away.

Given the arbitrator already had problems with the employee’s credibility, he ruled that in this specific case, the employee was not really worried about his co-worker but rather angry with his supervisor, with whom he had had a dispute earlier and halted the assembly line out of spite.

As a result, the arbitrator dismissed the complaint.

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