Ontario Superior Court upholds dismissal of employee for failing to report her workplace accident

She was allegedly too embarrassed to report the accident as she was the health and safety manager

Ontario Superior Court upholds dismissal of employee for failing to report her workplace accident

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has upheld the dismissal of a health, safety, and training manager after failing to report a workplace safety and insurance claim that she made on her own behalf.

The plaintiff, Shari Lagala, was the Health, Safety, and Training Manager for Pantene Building Supplies Ltd. Her employment was primarily terminated due to the management and reporting (or non-reporting) of a workplace safety and insurance claim related to an alleged fall in the company's Brantford facility parking lot in 2019.

The court noted that the plaintiff failed to report the incident to her supervisors immediately despite initiating a Workplace Safety and Insurance (WSIB) claim and receiving physiotherapy benefits.

Based on the findings, the company conducted an investigation and determined a loss of trust in the plaintiff, leading to her termination from employment. The court delved into the legal framework surrounding employment termination, referencing case law authorities to evaluate the nature and extent of the plaintiff's misconduct.

The Ontario Superior Court highlighted the plaintiff's failure to report the accident promptly and inconsistencies in her accounts. The court also rejected the plaintiff's claim that she was embarrassed to report the incident as she was the Health, Safety and Training Manager. The court noted that even though the plaintiff claimed she was too embarrassed to tell a supervisor about the incident, she contacted a traffic manager to complain.

The court said that if the plaintiff reported the accident to the traffic manager, as she described, then she should have expected that management would have become aware of the issue and dealt with it. Accordingly, the court concluded that the plaintiff's explanation of being embarrassed was made up to justify her failure to follow the corporate policies she was responsible for.

The court explained that the plaintiff must report the accident to her employer within three days. She reported it weeks later instead. The court emphasized that by failing to report the accident, the plaintiff placed her employer at risk of being found violating the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) and being sanctioned.

The court also found that the plaintiff knew, or ought to have known, that reporting, as the employer's representative, an accident that she had suffered would put her interests in clear conflict with the employer's interests. The court said she would be interested in obtaining benefits from the claim. At the same time, the employer would want a full investigation into the claim, particularly given the inconsistencies in the plaintiff's reporting.

The court's ruling emphasized that the plaintiff's actions compromised her health and safety manager role. The court found the termination proportionate, considering the plaintiff's responsibility for enforcing health and safety policies.

As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff's wrongful dismissal claim, highlighting the employer's justified decision to terminate the employment based on the established pattern of misconduct.

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