Anger, insubordination enough to turf truck driver

Dismissal following verbal altercation upheld

A Saskatchewan worker who was fired after getting into a verbal altercation with his manager and refusing to follow instructions has had his unjust dismissal complaint dismissed by an adjudicator.

In 2014, Earl Boyd was hired by Epp’s Trucking, a company based in Saskatoon, Sask.

On a cold Dec. 23, 2017, Boyd had an assignment in which he delivered goods in company truck #169. Post-delivery, he was on his way back to the terminal when he received a message instructing him to switch over to truck #140.

When Boyd arrived, however, truck #140 wasn’t plugged in and failed to start. He asked some mechanics to charge the battery.

Boyd texted the after-hours dispatch number to advise that he wouldn’t be able to take truck #140 after all because it wasn’t charged and the sleeping area was dirty. He indicated that his assigned loads should be transferred to truck #169, the one he had already been using that day.

The owner and manager of Epp’s, Steven Balzer, went to the terminal to clarify what was going on. When he arrived, he told Boyd to wait until truck #140 was charged. Boyd complained that #140 wasn’t clean, but Balzer thought #169 wasn’t any cleaner.

Eventually, the two men began shouting at each other, and then Boyd gave his manager the finger and directed an obscenity at him. Boyd then closed the terminal doors, leaving Balzer outside.

Balzer went to a smaller door to enter, but as he went in, Boyd was coming out at the same time, resulting in a collision.

Balzer told Boyd: “You are done working here and you are not going to work for me.” He asked Boyd to leave the premises and gave the keys to truck #169 to another employee with the instructions that Boyd could remove his personal items from it when he was ready to leave. Soon after, Boyd went home.

Boyd filed a complaint for unjust dismissal under the Canada Labour Code, arguing that he couldn’t follow the instructions to use truck #140 because it wouldn’t start and most of the arguing was because of the lack of cleanliness.

Epp’s responded that it had just cause for dismissal as Boyd had refused to follow lawful instructions and verbally abused the owner of the company.

Right to assign work

In Boyd and Epp’s Trucking Inc., the adjudicator found that Boyd had the right to discuss the decision. However, the company had the right to assign work to its drivers in whichever truck it deemed necessary for the task.

The adjudicator also found that Boyd became unnecessarily angry and abusive in the altercation. And the truck’s cleanliness didn’t warrant a refusal to switch trucks and disobey an order from a superior.

The verbally abusive behaviour Boyd displayed was a reason for concern for the manager, and it was clear that Boyd’s termination was for both his verbal abuse and refusal to follow instructions, said the adjudicator.

“Boyd may not have agreed with the manager’s decision to reassign him from truck #169 to truck #140 and may have felt that the truck was not properly cleaned, but neither of these warranted his refusal to follow the instructions or to become verbally abusive.”

In the end, the adjudicator determined Epp’s Trucking had just cause to terminate Boyd’s employment, and dismissed Boyd’s complaint.

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