On Tuesday, October 13th, 2015, at 8:30 in the morning, one of our members was fired, purportedly for cause. The signers of the dismissal letter were Peta Bonham-Smith, then Interim Dean and now Dean of Arts and Science, and Michelle Prytula, Dean of Education. In their letter to our member, they declared: “Due to the severity of your conduct in making a discriminatory remark, your employment cannot continue at the university as the employment relationship is irreparable.
This case went to arbitration. The arbitrator was Shiela Denysiuk, QC. On September 6, 2017, she wrote: “For all of the foregoing reasons, I have concluded that the evidence fails to establish just and reasonable cause for any discipline. The grievance is hereby allowed. The dismissal is set aside as being excessive in the circumstances. The University shall immediately reinstate [Denise] McConney and make her whole in all respects, including rights of first refusal.” Arbitrator Denysiuk added: “In the event I am wrong in my analysis of the comment, and some discipline is appropriate, I am satisfied that a coaching letter would have been sufficient in the circumstances.”
Witnesses Michelle Prytula and Chris Scribe, Director of ITEP, both made an issue of the conduct of the union representative who took part on the member’s behalf in the investigation meeting in 2015. Arbitrator Denysiuk commented on it: “I am of the view that Zamulinski’s commentary was entirely appropriate in the circumstances. He was there to advocate for McConney. In my view, the offence taken by Scribe at the meeting, and Prytula later, might have prevented them from considering Zamulinski’s comments objectively.”
Arbitrator Denysiuk noted: “Not every comment that offends is offensive. The test [of offensiveness] requires both an objective and subjective assessment.”
Despite the forthright judgment by the arbitrator, the union is still battling to ensure that our member is made whole.
In the meanwhile, this victory means that we are all somewhat safer from administrators who do not understand labour law.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.