Board upholds three-day suspension of Parks Canada worker

Worker fell asleep on the job, didn't understand the consequences of his actions

A Parks Canada worker in Quebec caught sleeping on the job was suspended without pay for three days, a move that was upheld by the Canada Public Service Staff Relations Board.

Martin Cyr has been employed by Parks Canada since 1983. In the summer of 2003 he received three disciplinary sanctions.

In July 2003 Cyr was caught sleeping during work hours and suspended. Cyr filed a grievance over the suspension.

Cyr works at Havre-Saint-Pierre, Que., where Parks Canada operates the Mingan Islands tourist site. Parks Canada boats are used to transport employees to the islands to provide animation services and to act as tour guides.

The trip takes about 15 to 20 minutes. On board the boat the captain sits in the pilothouse and Cyr acts as the maintenance and security clerk.

At the hearing a technical services employee testified that on July 14, 2003, he was looking for some information contained in the logbook of a Parks Canada boat, the Rorqual Bleu, that was tied up in the marina.

He tried to get in touch by radio-telephone but got no answer. He decided to go to the boat. Once inside he consulted the logbook. It was then that he heard a noise in the forward cabin of the boat. He noted Cyr was stretched out on a bench. He said Cyr turned over and immediately fell asleep again.

When the employee returned to the office, he noticed that his foreman had also tried to contact the Rorqual Bleu by radio-telephone. He told the foreman that he might have some difficulty in getting a response because Cyr was sleeping on the boat.

The foreman went to the dock and through a porthole saw that Cyr was lying on a bench and had covered himself with his coat.

The foreman phoned his boss to inform him of the situation. He came down to the dock and took a photograph of Cyr sleeping in the cabin. After that he woke him up. Cyr stood up and explained that he had been resting, not sleeping. He was told to get back to work but Cyr said his work was finished. But the boss thought there was more work to be done such as picking up the trash and cleaning the dock.

Cyr was told to report for a meeting on July 16, 2003.

The director of Mingan Park took part in that meeting. The director said Cyr claimed he had fallen asleep while sitting down in the cabin to relax for a few moments. Cyr also said he had a headache on that day, which was a Monday, because he had been very busy at a festival on the weekend.

Cyr contended his fatigue could be due to his medication and that he had been told in his other winter job, as a truck driver, that it would be better if he stopped for a few minutes to take a nap in the truck when he felt tired.

Cyr also said other employees sometimes rested in the boats. He filed a photograph of another employee lying on the bench of a boat.

The director was not satisfied with Cyr’s explanations, and imposed a suspension equivalent to three working days (30 hours.)

The employer’s position

The employer contended it had proved that Cyr decided to rest and had lain down in the cabin of the boat. It criticized him for denying the facts and not realizing the import of his actions.

Cyr’s position

Cyr said he had taken part in a festival on the weekend and had asked for a day off on July 14 but was refused because there was no one to take his place. He said he fell asleep while sitting down to rest, and was adamant that he had done his work.

He thought the suspension without pay was too severe.

The board’s decision

The Public Service Staff Relations Board sided with Parks Canada.

It said, in other cases, the punishment might have been too severe but not in this case.

“Mr. Cyr did nothing to persuade his superiors that he understood the consequences of his actions and would improve his conduct in the future,” the board said.

It said the circumstances surrounding the photo that Cyr filed — showing another employee resting on a boat — could not be established.

“The situation could be a noontime siesta instead of a person in a sleeping position, lying on his side and covered with a coat as in Mr. Cyr’s case,” the board said.

The board said Cyr’s testimony as a whole confirms that he decided to rest. He should have admitted his actions and alleged in his defence that it was an isolated incident in special circumstances when he was extremely tired.

It said Cyr’s attitude at the meetings with his employer and in the explanations he provided weighed against the reduction of the employer’s penalty.

Accordingly, it dismissed his grievance.

For more information see:

Cyr c. Agence Parcs Canada, 2005 CarswellNat 281, 2005 CarswellNat 662, 2005 CRTFP 15, 2005 PSSRB 15 (Can. P.S.S.R.B.)

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