City inspector who engaged in two separate physical attacks at work fired for cause

'That risk must be removed from the workplace': Arbitrator
By Adrian Miedema
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 11/15/2017

A labour arbitrator has upheld the dismissal of a Toronto city inspector after he physically attacked two people – a coworker and a contractor to the city – in two separate incidents at work.

The employee was an inspector with the municipal construction unit at the city’s water division.

The arbitrator found that in one incident, the employee engaged in a physical altercation in which he intentionally struck a coworker, causing him injury (a 1-2 cm cut under his left eyebrow). The incident arose from a dispute about the use of city laundry facilities used to wash employees’ work clothes.  The arbitrator also found that the employee was dishonest in his characterization of what occurred, and did not accept responsibility.

In the other incident, the employee engaged in a verbal altercation with a city contractor (a backhoe operator) while inspecting a new residential service connection at a private property.  Instead of walking away, the employee escalated the dispute into a physical altercation, following the contractor and striking him twice in the back of the head.  The dispute was over whether the backhoe operator was using the appropriate material for backfill.

The arbitrator stated:

“There is simply no basis on which to relieve against the grievor’s termination. His inability to control his anger has resulted in conduct which is completely unacceptable. Even prior to Bill 168, an employee who, on two separate occasions physically attacked persons in the workplace, particularly when at least one of those attacks resulted in an injury, could expect to have their employment terminated, and that termination upheld.” 

Here, rather than taking responsibility for his actions, the employee attempted to blame the victims. He had failed to take an anger management course when requested, and also had received a Letter of Direction, directing him not to engage in workplace violence.

The arbitrator concluded:

“Accordingly, I accept the city’s assessment that the grievor has anger management issues, is likely to reoffend by engaging in violence, and that that risk must be removed from the workplace.”

There were no mitigating factors in the case. The employee’s dismissal was upheld.

For more information see:

  • CUPE, Local 79 and Toronto (City) (Scaramuzza), Re, 2017 CarswellOnt 12939 (Ont. Arb.).

 Adrian Miedema is a partner with Dentons Canada LLP in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 863-4678 or adrian.miedema@dentons.com. Adrian's discussion of this case also appears in the Dentons blog www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com.

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