Cop claims reprisals after safety complaint

RCMP officer claimed assessment of his job performance and suspension were reprisals for earlier safety complaint

This instalment of You Make the Call looks at a police officer who claimed he faced reprisals when he filed a complaint after he felt his safety was compromised on the job.

Staff Sgt. Maj. Normand Vallée was a risk manager in the Informatics Services department of the RCMP in Montreal. In November 2001, Vallée filed a complaint with the force’s occupational health and safety committee, claiming he and his team were given an inadequate radio communications system while he co-ordinated a motorcade during the April 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Vallée claimed the limitations of the equipment endangered his safety and that of the people in the motorcade. The committee found the complaint was justified and Vallée’s supervisor took steps to ensure it didn’t happen again.

Soon after, the RCMP launched a workplace assessment investigation in Vallée’s department. This took place in 2002, shortly after the decision on Vallée’s complaint and was said to be in response to conflicts in Vallée’s Informatics unit. The investigation unearthed concerns of other employees about Vallée’s behaviour and the safety of other people working with him, resulting in a transfer in October 2002 followed by a disciplinary measure on Aug. 23, 2003. The investigators denied Vallée’s complaint had come up at any time during the investigation process.

On Oct. 9, 2004, Vallée filed a complaint under the Canada Labour Code, claiming the short interval between the verification of his complaint and the investigation constituted reprisals stemming from his safety complaint. He also claimed the investigation isolated him and labelled him as having a “social phobia” after the shock he felt from being disciplined.

Vallée claimed he continued to face reprisals in March 2005 when he consulted the chief physician about damage caused to his teeth from the stress because of the complaint. The physician referred him to a dentist outside the RCMP but Vallée claimed this was a refusal of medical treatment.

Vallée asserted there was a culture of reprisals in the RCMP against people who make any complaints against management and he was one of many who have experienced this.
You Make the Call

Was Vallée subjected to reprisals after his 2001 complaint about inadequate equipment?
Were the RCMP’s actions unrelated to the complaint and based on legitimate concerns about his behaviour?

If you said the RCMP’s actions were unrelated to Vallée’s complaint and were legitimate, you’re right.

The board found Vallée didn’t establish a causal link between his safety complaint and later events. It found the short interval between his complaint and the workplace assessment was more likely a coincidence and the link between them was “tenuous.” Vallée didn’t offer any real proof the two were related. The board noted Vallée suffered from “post-traumatic shock” after the summit and its affects on his behaviour were most likely the real reason for the workplace assessment. Even if they were directly related, the assessment alone did not constitute a reprisal under the Canada Labour Code as he wasn’t suspended, dismissed or laid off.

The board also found the length of time elapsed between the 2002 assessment and Vallée’s filing of the complaint in October 2004 was beyond the reasonable time limit for such a complaint.

“If there were any reprisals, they may have had other equally plausible reasons,” the board said. “Measures had been taken at the time to ensure that the situation that occurred during the Summit of the Americas would not reoccur. The complaint was taken seriously and concrete actions would have been taken as a result of the difficulties raised by (Vallée).”

For more information see:

Vallée v. Canada (Treasury Board – Royal Canadian Mounted Police), 2007 CarswellNat 1480 (Can. Pub. Service Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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