Verbal threat considered workplace violence

Lack of remorse or acknowledgment of death threat made termination appropriate discipline: Arbitrator
By Ronald Minken
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/09/2012

It has been more than a year since the Ontario government established the amendments to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which have commonly been referred to as the Bill 168 amendments. Since then there has been little, if any, case law to assist employers and employees with the interpretation and application of the Bill 168 amendments regarding violence and harassment in the workplace. However, on Aug. 18, 2011, the first Bill 168 arbitration decision was made in the matter of Kingston (City) v. Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 109, which provided well needed insight into how the Bill 168 amendments are to function in the workplace and how they may be used to terminate an employee.

The employee, Donna Hudson, began working for the City of Kingston, Ont., in 1983. Throughout her employment, Hudson received multiple non-disciplinary and disciplinary warnings for various reasons, including arguing and shouting at her supervisor, angrily confronting a co-worker and swearing at her co-workers.

In September 2009, the city conducted training for its employees in preparation for the Bill 168 amendments. Hudson attended one of the training sessions held on Sept. 11, 2009, during which she was informed of the concepts of harassment, verbal and physical violence and the need to be mindful of how one’s words and actions affect other people in the workplace.