Housekeeper’s attack and framing of co-worker just cause: Board

Housekeeper attacked co-worker, then said she was attacked

A British Columbia hotel had just cause to fire a housekeeper who got into a “bizarre” physical altercation and lied about it, the B.C. Labour Relations Board has ruled.

On Nov. 9, 2008, a housekeeper for the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown was assigned to clean the 14th floor of the hotel. She went to the supply room on the 15th floor to get her cart. The 15th floor housekeeper was in the room stocking her own supplies when the first cleaner began stocking her cart with towels and mugs from the 15th floor supply room. The 15th floor housekeeper said she needed the mugs and more were available in the 14th floor supply room. According to the second housekeeper, the first cleaner pushed her against the wall and began choking her. She felt the first cleaner was trying to kill her. She broke free from the grip, but the first cleaner called the supervisor and said the 15th floor housekeeper was trying to kill her. The first cleaner then messed up her hair, tore her uniform and scratched her own arms before getting in the service elevator.

The first cleaner then told her story to the supervisor: The second housekeeper had spoken to her “meanly,” then pushed her and tore her uniform pocket. Then she kicked the first cleaner in the shin, scratched her arms and ripped open her uniform.

The hotel’s general manager was shocked at the nature of the incident and the difference in the two accounts. The 15th floor housekeeper said she felt unsafe to be near the first cleaner and went on stress leave.

The general manager became suspicious when details in the first cleaner’s story changed and he gradually came to accept the 15th floor cleaner’s version as accurate. He tried to find a reason for the extreme behaviour but couldn’t come up with any. An independent investigation was fruitless, and the final report led him to decide to fire the first cleaner.

In the grievance, the first cleaner admitted she had put her hands on the other’s throat, tore her own uniform and scratched her own arms. She said she had lied to save her job and was prepared to apologize to both her co-worker and general manager.

Though the first cleaner admitted responsibility and apologized in the end, the board found it was only when it became impossible to deny. She refused to accept responsibility for lying and endangering her co-worker’s job security, feeling both of them were at fault. In addition, said the board, the first cleaner’s misconduct involved not only assault, but trying to frame her coworker. This was not spontaneous but rather premeditated behaviour.

“While it is true, as argued by the union, that the assault can be said to be spur-of-the-moment, nothing the (first cleaner) did after that was,” said the board. “Inflicting injuries on her own body, ripping up her uniform; then blaming all of it on the very person she violently choked, can only be described as calculated and despicable.”

The board found the employment relationship was beyond restoring and the dismissal should stand. See Hilton Vancouver Metrotown v. U.N.I.T.E.- H.E.R.E., Local 40, 2010 CarswellBC 2094 (B.C. Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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