Trumped-up charge of workplace assault leads to unjust dismissal damages

Employer relied on victim’s delayed incident report but didn’t talk to employee or consider several mitigating factors
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/08/2017

A Manitoba First Nations band must pay a former long-term employee $57,000 for unjust dismissal stemming from a poor investigation of a dubious accusation of workplace assault.

Nancy Thomas, 61, was hired in April 1995 by Shamattawa First Nation to be a building healthy community co-ordinator. Shamattawa was a First Nations community located in a remote area in northern Manitoba, which was only reachable by temporary winter roads or airplane in the summer. Thomas had lived in Shamattawa since 1966 after spending her early childhood in a residential school.

For many years, Thomas had her work directly assigned by the band’s chief and council and she worked as a counsellor and co-ordinator in the community without regular supervision.  This changed in 2006, when the position of health director was created and Thomas was supervised by this individual, who reported to the band manager.