• Alex Robertson

Enforcing COVID-19 Protocols in the Work Place

Over the past year, many employers in B.C. have worked diligently to implement

protocols in the workplace to safeguard their employees from exposure to COVID-19.

Notwithstanding their efforts, from time to time employers may struggle with non-

compliant employees.


COMPLAINANT AND RETAIL, HEALTH CARE AND SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION

A recent Alberta Labour Relations Board decision, Complainant and Retail, Health Care

and Service Employees Union, CLAC Local 301, [2001] Alta LRBR LD-025, sheds

some light on how courts or tribunals may treat instances of non-compliance with

COVID-19 protocols in the workplace.  In this case, an 11 year employee’s failure to

disclose his international travel and subsequent disregard for the employer’s COVID-19

protocol led to his dismissal.


THE BACKGROUND

At an Alberta group living facility for individuals with disabilities, the employer had

established a protocol for its employees and visitors regarding COVID-19. This protocol

came in the form of a questionnaire and temperature check, and left no doubt as to the

necessary steps to be taken should an employee or visitor fail either of these.


The second question on the COVID-19 questionnaire asked individuals if they, or

anyone in their household, had travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days. If

someone should answer yes to any of the questions, or have an increased temperature,

the individual in question would be barred from entering the facility and employees

would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.


In May 2020, the employee had two weeks booked off from work. At no time before

taking the time off did the employee inform his employer that he would be travelling

outside of Canada. During his time off, the employee travelled to the United States.

When the employee returned, he went right back to work. A few days later, he began

feeling unwell and informed his employer. He booked the first available appointment for a COVID-19 test. Shortly after, the employee was informed by the Alberta Health

Services (AHS) that he had tested positive for COVID-19. The AHS called the employer

and, while informing the employer of the positive test result, the AHS also disclosed the

employee’s international travel.


THE DISMISSAL

The employee of 11 years, with a clean working record, was dismissed because the

employer felt that a breach of trust had occurred and that the employee had placed co-

workers, as well as residents of the home, at risk. The employee challenged his

dismissal and argued that, at no time did the individual administering the questionnaire

ask about his travel, stating that the questionnaire was pre-filled by that individual and

he was never told he had to self-isolate.


THE TAKEAWAY

This argument was unsuccessful; the employer emphasized that the employee was

well-aware of the COVID-19 protocols as he had been introduced to them long before

he took his trip.


Contact Us

Decisions to terminate employees should always be approached carefully by an

employer. Wrongful dismissal claims can be very costly and time consuming. Given the

current heightened uncertainty, we strongly recommend that employers seek legal

advice when facing decisions involving employee terminations. If you have any

questions, please contact us at (604) 736 9791 or email Alex Robertson ar@dwslaw.ca


By Alex Robertson, Associate, and Dominique Legendre.

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal

advice, and is only to provide general information. Should you require legal advice for

your particular situation, please get in touch with us.