Employee pushes co-worker, gets pushed out door

Angry employee pushed verbally abusive co-worker after complaining to supervisor

This instalment of You Make the Call looks at an employee who was fired for getting into a physical altercation with a co-worker.

Clement Lomangho, a French-speaking immigrant from the Congo, began working for Lakeside Feeders Ltd., an Alberta fertilizer company, on June 2004. Though he had some trouble with English, he signed documents stating he had read and understood Lakeside’s employee handbook, which explained the company’s disciplinary policy. He was also given a document which explained there was zero tolerance for fighting and anyone responsible for physical contact on Lakeside’s property would be terminated.

On Aug. 25, 2004, Lomangho attended a safety meeting which reminded employees “any act of violence or harassment committed by or against a team member is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

On Oct. 1, 2004, a co-worker called Lomangho a derogatory name. He reported it to his supervisor and though he was given the option of going home, he remained at work. The next day the same co-worker sprayed Lomangho with water from a hose, made a rude gesture and used a profanity. Lomangho again reported it to a supervisor and when he returned, the co-worker was blocking his way. When he didn’t move, according to Lomangho, he pushed the co-worker out of the way. The supervisor saw this and suggested he go home. Instead, he went to human resources and reported the incident. An HR staff member went to investigate and when he returned, he told Lomangho to hand over his employee identification card and go home.

The next Monday, Oct. 4, 2004, Lomangho was asked to sign a discipline notice. When he saw “fighting” had been given as the reason for the notice, he refused to sign until it was changed to “pushing another team member.” He signed it and was told to return the next day to meet with the discipline review committee.

On Oct. 5, the committee listened to Lomangho’s explanation. After the meeting, he was given a letter saying he was terminated for fighting, in accordance with Lakeside’s policy. Lomangho said he wasn’t properly informed of the consequences of the meetings and that he should have been given the opportunity to have a union representative with him.
You make the call

Did Lakeside properly inform Lomangho he was at risk of losing his job and his rights?
Was Lomangho denied a chance to understand the disciplinary process and have union representation?

If you said Lomangho had been properly informed of the risk and his rights, you’re correct.

The board found the company policy was clear. Because the supervisor had witnessed the incident, the meetings were not investigative and were obviously disciplinary, particularly since Lomangho was given a disciplinary notice which explained the incident before seeing the committee. The confiscation of his employee ID card should have further indicated he was being disciplined.

The board found the employee orientation and handbook were sufficient to provide information on Lakeside’s fighting policy and discipline process and Lomangho should have known from reading the policy and attending the Aug. 25 meeting the altercation would lead to discipline. It also found his lack of English skills was not an excuse, as the company “expects the employees to have a basic understanding of the English language sufficient to enable them to understand and comply with (Lakeside’s) employment policies.”

Since he should have known what was happening, the board said, it was not Lakeside’s obligation to tell him he could have a union representative present, nor was it essential. “There is no evidence to suggest the presence of a union representative would have impacted the result in this case,” the board said. “(Lakeside’s) zero tolerance for fighting was well known.” See U.F.C.W., Local 401 v. Lakeside Feeders Ltd., 2007 CarswellAlta 459 (Alta. Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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