One heated argument and insult not harassment: Board

Employee claimed he was fired for raising harassment issue but one incident didn’t qualify as harassment
||Last Updated: 04/26/2012

A single argument between two employees that resulted in shouting and a derogatory comment was not enough to constitute harassment, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled.

Jason Vey was a probationary employee for Keeprite Refrigeration, a manufacturer of commercial refrigeration products in Brantford, Ont. According to Vey, one day a co-worker approached him at his workstation and began accusing Vey of doing things wrong and wasting time. Vey said he explained that doing things the co-worker’s way didn’t work for him and they began to argue.

The argument escalated and they began shouting at each other, with the co-worker yelling “Fine then! I’m done with you! You’re a stupid f--- proby that won’t f--- listen.” Vey also claimed the co-worker said he would “have your job by the end of the night” and taunted him as he walked away.

Vey told a union representative and his supervisor about the altercation later in the shift. The next day, Keeprite told Vey he was being let go for performance issues. Vey spoke with an HR person over the next couple of days, who told him the company was not investigating and would not change its decision to terminate him, though Keeprite facilitated a meeting between Vey and the co-worker to smooth things over. Vey then filed a complaint that the termination was a reprisal for him notifying the employer of workplace harassment, a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

The board found that the argument did not constitute workplace harassment under the OHSA, as there was no evidence that the coworker “engaged in a course of vexatious conduct,” as the argument was a single incident.

The board also found that Keeprite’s HR department discussed the situation with Vey even after he was terminated. There was no evidence the company terminated Vey’s employment because of his complaint, said the board.

The board didn’t dismiss Vey’s application outright, but instead gave him two weeks to file a submission explaining why it should not be dismissed..

For more information see:

Vey v. Keeprite Refrigeration (National Refrigeration Air Conditioning Canada Crop), 2012 CarswellOnt 663 (Ont. Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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