Suncor worker fired after calling in sick during wildfires

Company claimed worker changed his story on illness, but he properly followed call-in procedure; rejected STD application not fraudulent
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 04/11/2018

Many employers have disability management programs and established procedures for calling in sick that employees must follow. However, before an employee is disciplined for not following those procedures or abusing sick leave, the employer should look at how it handled the situation with the information it had.

A Suncor oilsands worker who called in sick amongst the confusion of the Fort McMurray, Alta., wildfires did not act dishonestly or abuse the company’s sick leave program, an arbitrator has ruled.

Oil company Suncor operates an oil sands extraction and production site called Firebag in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta. Kevin Zwozda was a field operator and production technician there, working in steam production, water production, sulphur recovery, and in the water process plant. Hired in 2008, Zwozda lived in Hudson Bay, Sask. — about 700 kilometres from the Firebag site — with his family. He flew to and from the Firebag camp, where he stayed for several days at a time to work, and had no disciplinary record.