One-day suspension appropriate for storming manager’s office: Board

Supervisor rebelled against new evaluation system

A one-day suspension for an employee whose frustration with his manager boiled over in a shouting match was appropriate discipline, the Canadian Public Service Labour Relations Board has ruled.

Stanley Bahniuk was a team leader in revenue collections for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in Calgary. He was in charge of about eight people.

The CRA used a standardized competency assessment for performance evaluation in which managers must directly assess the competency of employees under them. Bahniuk’s manager decided to use a template that involved team leaders submitting examples of their required competencies to him. The manager sent the template to all team leaders in December 2006 and asked them to reply with examples by Jan. 15, 2007.

Bahniuk replied by saying his performance was “comparable” to the previous five years and he would let his manager know if he had examples of exceeding that performance. Bahniuk felt it was the manager’s responsibility to observe him and identify examples himself as that was part of managing.

The manager asked again for specific examples and Bahniuk said he had sent more than 100 emails over the past several months that accounted for his performance and if there were any concerns it was the manager’s duty to address them. He was growing frustrated with his manager and refused to send anything else for the performance review, despite the fact the manager felt the emails weren’t suitable examples.

On Jan. 18, 2007, CRA issued a written reprimand to Bahniuk for “inappropriate interaction and tone” with his manager and his refusal to co-operate with the performance review. After Bahniuk received the reprimand he went to his manager’s office to dispute it.

Bahniuk expressed his displeasure and said he wanted to get further discipline so his case could go to an adjudicator. The manager told him he was being insubordinate and disrespectful and asked him to leave his office. The manager discussed the matter with his supervisor and it was decided to give Bahniuk a one-day suspension. The CRA had a progressive discipline policy and a one-day suspension was the next step after a written reprimand. Though Bahniuk later apologized for storming into the manager’s office, the CRA felt he didn’t show he understood what kind of conduct was expected of him as a team leader and upheld the suspension.

Bahniuk filed grievances for both the reprimand and the suspension, claiming there had been friction between him and his manager for years and he was “targeted” for unprofessional behaviour and punished for contesting his reprimand. He also said he wanted to be a better team leader and was frustrated with what he perceived to be his manager avoiding his duty to manage him and provide feedback.

The board found though Bahniuk had reason to be frustrated, his desire to escalate things to arbitration showed he wasn’t interested in trying to resolve things with his manager. His conduct, considering he was a team leader and supervised other employees, was worthy of discipline. The CRA strictly followed its progressive discipline policy and gave him clear letters each time on the reasons for discipline.

The board found the CRA had proven the discipline imposed was reasonable and dismissed Bahniuk’s grievances. See Bahniuk v. Canada (Revenue Agency), 2009 CarswellNat 3782 (Can. Pub. Service Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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