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Safety Officer sues employer after being dismissed for losing "COR" Certification Recognition

A COR designation recognizes a high standard of safety, and thereby creates several associated benefits for companies that maintain certification.  Further, COR is often a prerequisite in securing future contracts with certain clientele. Part of maintaining the certification requires regular external auditor reviews. In this case, the safety officer was responsible for maintaining the COR's onerous safety requirements. 

The company lost its COR certification when the company claims the safety officer failed to complete certain COR requirements by an end-of-year deadline. The safety officer was subsequently dismissed, and initiated an action of wrongful dismissal against the employer. 

A few brief facts about this case:

  • The safety officer became seriously ill and the employer was aware of the condition.
  • The safety officer's immediate supervisor left the company and replacement supervision was provided by the Vice-President located in another city with minimal contact with the safety officer.
  • The employer hired, then subsequently terminated, an assistant for the safety officer.
  • The employer was rapidly expanding its operations.

The court heard justification for dismissing, in part, that the safety officer not only failed to complete his COR recertification duties, but also that he deceived the employer regarding the state of the company's prospects for COR recertification.  In essence, the substandard performance had potential serious consequences in securing contracts. 

The court heard that the safety officer became seriously ill during the recertification process, and his supervisor left the company and his new supervisor worked in another city with minimal interaction. The safety officer had pleaded for the employer not to dismiss his assistant as it could jeopardize the COR recertification.  The court found that although the safety officer may have been naive in believing that he could get the extension for recertification  the employer was required to provide adequate supervision and support. This plea for help fell "on deaf ears" the court concluded.   As such, the termination was without cause and entitled to damages in lieu of notice. 

An employer who dismisses an employee summarily must prove on a balance of probabilities that it had "just cause" to terminate a his or her employment. 

Albeit, this decision was heard in the Province of Alberta, there is a common thread here in Ontario for safety officers responsible for COR and employers requirements to provide reasonable support and supervision for work being done. 

For further information please contact Greg Sathmary at (613) 260-0600.

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