Former BC Ferries worker fired for bullying and harassment loses Labour Relations Board case

·3 min read

A former BC Ferries worker fired for inappropriate conduct has lost a Labour Relations Board case he filed against his union for failing to grieve his dismissal.

The complainant referred to by the initials "BM" in documents to protect his privacy, argued the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union didn't make any arguments to defend him after accusations surfaced about his behaviour on the job.

The Labour Relations Board decision released last week outlines the series of events that led to the complaint which began when a female co-worker at BC Ferries "raised concerns about feeling bullied and harassed" because of the way BM spoke to her at the overhead walkway on Feb. 25, 2019.

She alleges that BM questioned her in a rude and intimidating manner which made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

But when he was asked about his behaviour, he suggested she might have been "having a bad day" and was being "overly sensitive." Then, according to documents, another co-worker became concerned over his attitude later in the evening.

The events led to a letter of reprimand from BC Ferries which cited its zero tolerance policy for bullying and harassment.

Workplace allegations of verbal abuse, humiliation

Allegations of unprofessional and inappropriate conduct then snowballed over the coming months when BM was assigned to the Coastal Renaissance. Complaints about his behaviour toward co-workers between July 2019 and September 2019 led to another letter of reprimand.

BC Ferries
BC Ferries

During one incident, BM allegedly spoke in a derogatory manner about the chief engineer and said "that f---king Russian, I should punch him in the face and give him two black eyes."

According to documents, when he was questioned about the incident, BM confirmed making the statement but said he wanted to "throat punch" him versus giving him two black eyes.

BM is also accused of lunging at another BC Ferries worker with a screwdriver and mocking an employee who was missing some of his fingers.

The company gave him a termination letter in November 2019 after it conducted an investigation and found his behaviour to be "grossly disrespectful, humiliating and a form of harassment in the workplace."

According to letter which was submitted to the Labour Relations Board, BC Ferries then waited so that BM could get medical treatment because he said he had been drinking a lot and had a troubled childhood.

Later, the company pointed out BM said his doctor, who had treated him for twenty years, didn't feel he had a problem with alcohol and did not refer him for psychological treatment. Therefore, BC Ferries concluded his use of alcohol and childhood trauma didn't absolve him from his conduct.

Complaint filed against union

In emails with union representatives in November and December 2019, BM confirmed he did not want to proceed with grieving his termination.

But then in January he asked the union in an email exchange if it was too late to file a grievance and said, "I think I want to change my mind!"

He was told by the union that his file was considered closed.

BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union President Graeme Johnston explained that BM had received a settlement which meant he could not grieve his dismissal.

"The complainant asked for the dismissal not to be grieved. He further asked that we negotiate a settlement on his behalf with express knowledge such a settlement would preclude a grievance, he then accepted this settlement after reconfirmation of its effects, and accepted payment from the settlement," said Johnston.

BM filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board against the union and suggested the union had acted in bad faith by not defending him or arguing with BC Ferries over allegations.

His complaint against the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union was ultimately dismissed. According to the board's ruling, BM's email exchanges with a union representative showed that he asked for the dismissal not to be grieved.

The vice-chair of the Labour Relations Board, David Chesman, also dismissed the complaint based on the fact that BM failed to use the union's internal appeal process when he felt he was wronged by the union.