Fired While in Prison
/ Author: Lisa Pranger
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Fired While in Prison

Case Files

A worker in a Saskatchewan potash mine lost his job because he was in prison for aggravated assault and unable to attend work for many months. His union fought the termination. What do you think the arbitrator decided?

The employee was a 50-year-old man who had worked at the mine for 12 years without any major issues, and had even received a promotion during that time. In 2019, the man had separated from his wife.

He accessed his wife’s email and text messages and learned that she had recently begun dating. Enraged, he drove to the other man’s workplace and attacked him with a baseball bat. The man was seriously injured, and the worker was arrested. 

While in custody, the worker called his supervisor, concerned for his job. The union requested a leave of absence as per the collective agreement, which allowed for a 28-day leave that could be extended. However, under the agreement, the employer simply had to consider the request and could deny it if they felt it wasn’t feasible or justifiable. 

The managers met several times and discussed the matter, but decided to terminate the employee after considering the plant disruption, the company’s reputation, and the potential difficulty of reintegrating the worker after such a violent offence. The stated reason for termination was “inability to report for work as scheduled.”

The union grieved the termination and claimed the leave of absence should not have been denied. 

In the meantime, the worker was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years’ probation. He served five months and then moved to another city to live in a halfway house for many months.

What did the arbitrator rule? 

The arbitrator said the worker’s absence forced the company to reorganize the workforce, and the uncertainty of the length of absence would have made it more difficult for them to cover for other leaves. The arbitrator also found that the employer had considered the request, in line with the collective agreement, and was entitled to refuse the request. As a result, the employer had just cause to dismiss the employee.

Source: Canadian HR Reporter

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