Discharging employee for absences caused by work-related injury unfair: Labour board

Worker was fired after not reporting to work on agreed return-to-work date

An employer committed an unfair labour practice and violated the Workers’ Compensation Act when it dismissed an employee receiving benefits, the Manitoba Labour Board has ruled.

Chad Taks was a grinder for Integra Castings, Inc, an iron foundry in Winkler, Man. His job involved grinding and smoothing out castings with pneumatic tools. Because of the constant vibration of the tools, the job can be hard on a worker’s hands and wrists.

Taks had started working for Integra in June 2004. In December 2005, he told Integra his was having problems with his hands and wrists. He provided doctors’ notes recommending some time off.

Integra gave him a medical layoff and, based on the information in the notes, expected him back at work on Jan. 16, 2006. However, Taks didn’t show up that day and didn’t hear from him the whole week. On Jan. 23, 2006, the company determined Taks had violated two of its rules by “overstaying a leave of absence” and “not showing up or calling in to work for three consecutive scheduled shifts.” Taks was given a “layoff for medical reasons” so he could received workers’ compensation benefits. He was told to contact Integra once he had seen his doctor.

On March 9, 2006, Taks was cleared by his doctor to return to work. He informed his supervisor and was told Integra would need some time to find a position for him. Taks called again a few days later and got the same answer. He consulted with the union, who said “none of the departments want to hire you.”

The Manitoba Labour Board found Integra had initially discharged Taks for overstaying his leave and not calling in, but those were related to his work-related injury, of which it was aware. As it turned out, Taks had informed his direct supervisor on Jan. 16 he wouldn’t be in that week, but the message hadn’t been passed on. Taks had also provided a new doctor’s note on Jan. 19 which Integra hadn’t been aware of when it decided to terminate him.

The board ruled Taks was discharged when he was off work due to a work-related injury and had provided sufficient notice he wouldn’t be into work the week of Jan. 16. As a result, Integra committed an unfair labour practice when it discharged him because of those absences.

The board ordered Integra to reinstate Taks to his old job and pay him for lost wages since his discharge. See Taks v. Integra Castings Inc., 2007 CarswellMan 290 (Man. Lab. Bd.).

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