DWI doesn’t make the grade with employer

Road worker who lost licence for 12 months denied request for leave and fired by township council

This instalment of You Make the Call looks at a municipal road worker who was fired after his driver’s licence was suspended.

Mike Gillett was a grader operator for the township of Black River-Matheson, Ont. He was employed with the township for 15 years without any disciplinary issues. On Jan. 22, 2006, Gillett was charged with driving a snowmobile while intoxicated and his licence was suspended for 90 days.

Since his job required having a valid driver’s licence, Gillett’s union requested the township temporarily assign him odd jobs that didn’t require one. However, the township said there weren’t any positions available that didn’t need a licence. It agreed to suspend him and hold his job open for 90 days and if his licence wasn’t reinstated, he would be terminated.

If Gillett lost his hearing, his licence would be suspended for a year and he would only be able to drive vehicles outfitted with an ignition interlock, a breath screening device, for a year after that. The township found out the cost of outfitting its vehicles with the devices was $10,500 per vehicle. It was also told Gillett would be considered high risk and its insurance premiums would increase by $4,500 for the next three years, and the township’s liability and equipment policies could also increase.

On Dec. 20, 2006, Gillett was found guilty and his licence was suspended for a year. He would also have a criminal record for five years. He filed a request with the township for a 12-month leave of absence. The township council accepted the request and agreed to post for a temporary grader operator and he would return to the position after his leave. The company also said if grader operator work wasn’t available, he would be sent home until work was available.

However, in January 2007, a new council was elected. Informed of Gillett’s conviction and request for leave, it was concerned with public perception and its reputation. As a public governing body, it didn’t want to be associated with someone who was convicted of drinking and driving or have someone on staff with a criminal record. The council decided the employment relationship with Gillett was no longer viable and decided to terminate him effective Jan. 12, 2007.

The township informed Gillett his request for a leave of absence was denied since a valid driver’s licence was essential for his position because, though a licence wasn’t needed to operate the grader itself, he must be available to respond to emergency work and call-outs. It also said the cost of installing interlock devices to accommodate his limitations was beyond its resources.
You Make the Call

Was the township right in deciding Gillett couldn’t work for it anymore?
Should Gillett have been granted leave during his suspension?

If you said the township should have accommodated Gillett and granted him a 12-month leave, you’re correct.

The board found the new township council had been given the facts of Gillett’s suspension and conviction, but not any specific information about his career with the township. It felt Gillett’s 15 years of service with a good disciplinary and work record, as well as the fact he was supporting a family, were important factors that should have been considered. It also found Gillett would be able to work within the limitations without too much hardship for the township.

“The fact that this information (about his work record and personal situation) was not provided left the new council to make a decision in somewhat of a vacuum,” the board said. “It is clear that the new council did not balance its interests with those of (Gillett).”

The board found the denial of Gillett’s request for a leave of absence was unjust and ordered the township to rescind his dismissal and place him on leave for one year beginning Dec. 28, 2006, the date of his original request.
For more information see:

Black River-Matheson (Township) v. C.U.P.E., Local 1490, 2007 CarswellOnt 8857 (Ont. Arb. Bd.).

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