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Federal court rules in PSAC’s favour, affirms workplace violence merits serious investigation

In a groundbreaking decision, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled on November 30 that employers cannot arbitrarily decide what constitutesworkplace violence.

“The decision is ground breaking for the federal public service and all federally regulated workers,” said Bob Kingston, President of the Agriculture Union. “It establishes that psychological harassment can amount to workplace violence and is one of the worst forms of harm that can be inflicted over time.”

“In the context of the recent public service employee survey where one in five workers report being harassed in the public service, this decision is very timely,” added Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “Employees alleging workplace violence deserve to have their concerns treated fairly and respectfully.”

PSAC member files complaint

The case involved a workplace violence complaint filed by Abel Akon, a CFIA poultry inspector in Saskatoon and a member of PSAC. The complaint described the harassment and humiliation he suffered from his supervisor.

After the employer dismissed the complaint, PSAC supported Akon in asserting that CFIA management had violated a regulation of the Canada Labour Code. The case landed in court after the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada endorsed the employer’s position.

PSAC wins judicial review

PSAC filed an application for judicial review. In November 2014, the federal court ruled that the way that Akon was treated did constitute workplace violence.

“Psychological bullying can be one of the worst forms of harm that can be inflicted on a person over time,” wrote Judge Michael Manson. This was in contrast to the government’s position that workplace violence only involves physical force.

Impartial investigation

The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with Justice Manson’s reasoning in its decision this week.

It was also significant that the court agreed that employers should not be allowed to conduct their own investigations in to workplace violence, saying this “would make a mockery of the regulatory scheme and effectively nullify the employees’ right to an impartial investigation of their complaints.”

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Windsor automotive parts company fined $175,000 for death of worker Published on: May 25, 2016 | Last Updated: May 25, 2016 8:41 PM EDT

Mrs. Phuong Thang, killed in an industrial accident in 2014, is survived by a husband and daughter and other extended family members.
Mrs. Phuong Thang, killed in an industrial accident in 2014, is survived by a husband and daughter and other extended family members.COURTESY OF THE THANG FAMILY

A Windsor automotive parts manufacturer has been fined $175,000 for the death of a worker in 2014.

Phuong Thang, 55, died when a stack of bins containing auto parts toppled on top of her at Canadian Electrocoating Ltd. at 945 Prince Rd.

On Sept. 19, 2014 there were three workers at a parts table, loading parts onto a rack in an area known as the line load.

The parts move from the line load to the painting process, the Ministry of Labour said in a press release.

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A forklift operator was in the process of lifting or moving material in the line load area.

Because of the closeness of the bins, and being stacked four to five high, the forklift caused a stack of bins to wobble and eventually topple.

The bins, weighing about 1,500 pounds each, fell on Thang, killing her.

The ministry found that under the company’s own safety rules the work table should have been 30 feet from the stacked bins, but in fact was only 16.5 feet away.

Canadian Electrocoating Ltd. pleaded guilty to the offence of failing as an employer to ensure the distance measure was in place on May 25 and were fined $175,000 by Justice of the Peace Susan Hoffman.

A victim fine surcharge of 25 per cent, or $43,750, was also levied.