Case against Edmonton worker fired for sexist insult overturned


Arbitrator Mia Norrie wrote that while the worker's comment was “a stupid comment,” she also agreed with the union that the termination was “excessive under the circumstances.”

Article content

A labour arbitrator has overturned the termination of an Alberta construction worker after his employment was terminated after he was overheard uttering a sexist slur in the cafeteria.

Jonathan Cormier worked for Sterling Crane last summer at the construction site in Genesee, about 58 km southwest of Edmonton.

According to an arbitration ruling dated May 24, he entered the canteen truck on the morning of August 1 last year and was overheard by colleagues, including two female crane operators, using the word “whore” to describe women or girls. The remark was made shortly after he entered the room while he was in the middle of a conversation with another colleague.

Display 2

Article content

He was fired later that day with the company citing his job hexcitement Politics.

In mid-September, Cormier found a similar position at another company.

The union representing him filed a complaint The company has gone through the Alberta government's mediation process, acknowledging that disciplinary action was warranted, but arguing that the termination was disproportionate and that the company failed to properly investigate the incident. The statement was made in a private conversation.

At a hearing in March, the company argued that the remark was loud enough to be heard across the room and was intended to provoke a reaction. It further argued that it had a duty to provide a safe and respectful work environment.

In her ruling, arbitrator Mia Norrie wrote that while Cormier's comment was “a stupid comment,” she agreed with the union that the termination was “excessive under the circumstances.”

“The employer had numerous options available to help change the mindset and culture of the company without having to terminate the complainant,” she wrote, noting that the complaining employees had not requested Cormier's termination.

Display 3

Article content

She vacated the termination and replaced it with a three-day suspension, and awarded Cormier compensation for lost wages and benefits for more than six weeks until he began his new job.

“The employer overreacted in this case and the dismissal was excessive under the circumstances,” the ruling states.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

However, Norrie also sharply criticized Cormier, writing that he failed to take responsibility for his actions. He tried to guess who had made the complaints against him and continued to justify his actions afterward.

“It is not clear to me whether the complainant recognizes the true nature of his misconduct,” she wrote.

“The complainant could and should have admitted his misconduct from the outset.”

Norrie praised the company's efforts to respond quickly to workplace complaints and support the women in its workplaces, even writing that this “deserves much applause,” but ultimately decided that in this case, it had also gone too far.

“The need for cultural change is crucial. However, achieving it does not require firing an employee.”

Editor's recommendations

[email protected]

Article content