The Facts

During a meeting organized to discuss her lack of punctuality and her attitude, the plaintiff, a hospital attendant in a CHSLD (long-term care centre) launched a tirade of insults, abuse and defamatory remarks against her superior and her employer for nearly 30 minutes. During the course of the same meeting, the plaintiff threw a chair against the wall and appeared to be on the verge of physically attacking her superior. After the meeting was concluded, while leaving the premises, she intentionally leaned on her car horn twice upon sighting him. 

A few weeks before this incident, the plaintiff had received a one (1) day suspension in the wake of similar conduct: loss of control, shouting, insults and threatening other employees. Following this incident, the plaintiff promised, going forward, to rein in her emotions, to adopt a professional and respectful attitude and to continue seeking professional help to deal with her anger management issue.

The Decision

The arbitrator, Me Faucher, first made a finding that the insults had shaken the self-confidence of her superior and constituted an attack upon his dignity. Her acts also clearly implied the possibility of imminent violence. 

The plaintiff was unable to regain control of herself and calm down. Both employees and CHSLD users were able to hear the entire scene.

She admitted that she made insulting and inappropriate remarks, that she had been shouting for approximately thirty minutes, that she had violently opened doors, had insulted her boss, and even that she threatened her employer with a lawsuit. However, she denied that she threw a chair, that she intended to violently attack her superior, or that she intentionally honked her horn while driving within proximity of him. The arbitrator did not accept her uncorroborated version of events. On the contrary, three (3) other witnesses corroborated the employer’s version of events. The fact that the plaintiff refused to acknowledge two (2) of her most serious acts of misconduct was deemed to be an incriminating factor by the arbitrator.

Although the union alleged that she was experiencing personal difficulties and was taking anti-depressants, the evidence disclosed that she had stopped going to therapy, was not on sick leave and had refused the assistance offered by her employer. The arbitrator added that nothing justified her conduct.

Based on her low level of seniority, her earlier one-day suspension for similar conduct, the fact that the CHSLD is a care facility for vulnerable persons, that she had read and signed the code on mutual respect, and that she consequently had agreed to refrain from any form of discrimination and violence, the arbitrator came to the conclusion that her conduct was tantamount to gross misconduct, thus warranting the employer’s decision to set aside the usual process of progressive disciplinary measures. The dismissal was thus confirmed. 

Référence : Unions des employés et employées de service, section locale 800 v. CHSLD de Laval (Nancy Conway), (T.A., 2018-02-19), 2018 QCTA 69 SOQUIJ AZ-51472302, arbitrator Nathalie Faucher.