If an employee alleges a violation of section 50 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) then the employer must prove there has been no violation. This is called a reverse onus clause which means an employer must prove it did not violate OHSA. After a brief summary of the remedies that are available to employees under section 50 of OHSA, this blog discusses three recent cases.
A recent BC Supreme Court decision finding a fast food employee was wrongfully dismissed and entitled to aggravated damages has been making newspaper headlines across the country. Ms. Ram had worked as a cook in various Burger King locations for 24 years, and was terminated for just cause after taking home a fish sandwich, fries and a drink at the end of her shift without paying for them. Ms. Ram's claim was heard over a seven day trial, resulting in a lengthy decision.
The Court acknowledged that an employer may allege just cause, and later abandon that claim at any time. The Court held that it wouldn’t be appropriate to penalize an employer for changing its mind if it initially had a reasonable basis to believe it had just cause to terminate an employee. As such, it is important to investigate and document any evidence of employee misconduct, and to act accordingly.