Unprofessional behaviour by colleagues not harassment: Arbitrator

Teacher felt two female colleagues were unprofessional and was offended by their gossiping and behaviour

A labour arbitrator has dismissed an Ontario teacher’s workplace harassment complaint as just a personality conflict with colleagues.

The male teacher worked for the Simcoe County District School Board, teaching at a high school in Barrie, Ont. The teacher had some conflicts with two female teachers in the same department at the school, and unsuccessfully tried to resolve those issues. He claimed one of the teachers gossiped about another teacher and he questioned the teaching methods of the other. On one occasion, one of the female teachers shouted at him to turn down the lights when he entered a department meeting and turned the lights on. When informal attempts to resolve the issues failed, Parsons complained to the school principal and his union.

The male teacher claimed he then faced reprisals through course selections and scheduling. In February 2010, he filed a complaint of objectionable behaviour with the school board but the board dismissed the complaint without discussing it with him. The two female teachers then filed a similar complaint against the male teacher and he was found to have engaged in conduct that might reasonably be known to be unwelcome. The school board suspended him for one day without pay.

The male teacher filed a complaint of unlawful reprisals under workplace harassment provisions in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the union filed grievance against the suspension. The suspension was removed from his record, but he was transferred to another school.

The arbitrator found that the classroom conduct of one of the teachers and gossip by the other were not directed at the male teacher and could not be “vexatious comment or conduct” against him, as harassment was defined by the OHSA. Though he may have found the behaviour unprofessional, it was not aimed at him, said the arbitrator.

The arbitrator also found the shouting and disagreements were not enough to warrant harassment and instead could be chalked up to personality conflicts that “should be resolvable as between adult professionals.” The complaint was dismissed.

For more information see:

·Parsons v. Simcoe County District School Board, 2012 CarswellOnt 120 (Ont. Lab. Rel. Bd.).

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