Harassment from coworker ignored, alleges Nova Scotia seniors’ home worker

Coworkers’ relationship started ‘on wrong foot’: Arbitrator

A dietary aide, who worked at the Whitehills Long Term Care in Hammonds Plains, N.S., said the employer disregarded her concerns of ongoing mistreatment from a fellow worker.
Joanne Ford had worked at the seniors’ home since 2013, and shortly after she started, Ford said she received a phone call from Helen Paris, continuing care assistant (CCA), who was at home. Paris told Ford that she wanted to kiss her first before another CCA could.
Ford, who is gay, testified this made her upset and she immediately hung up. Later, Paris apologized and Ford told her not to do so again. Ford also reported the incident to her supervisor.
On April 15, 2016, Ford filled out a mistreatment/harassment form identifying Paris as the source of harassment: “This has been going on for a continual basis. She is watching me at everything I do and runs to management. I feel I have to be on guard at all times and (it) is very stressful.”
On May 13, 2016, Ford received a disciplinary letter written by admistrator Tara Deveau. This was after a May 10 meeting in which “several concerns with inappropriate behaviour including gossip, lying, making false accusations towards others, and making assumptions about others that are not correct,” were made against Ford. 
Ford was given a three-day suspension.
Later in November, there were three incidents between Ford and Paris. Each of the incidents took place in the dining area, testified Paris, including one time when Ford spoke with “roughness or gruffness” to Paris while serving a meal to a resident.
During a Nov. 22 meeting between Paris, Ford and three supervisors, “you could feel the tension, it was a personality conflict,” said Louise Riley, who was at the meeting. 
Nothing was resolved but Riley suggested the pair enter workplace mediation, which was organized by the provincial labour and education ministry.
But Paris filed a formal complaint with the employer, on Dec. 14, which ended any potential mediation efforts. Paris filled out a form and said she received “constant, unwarranted, ostracizing and improper conduct when working with Ford.”
On Jan. 10, 2017, Ford and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 1259 filed a grievance. “The employer has not created a harassment-free and safe working place for me. The employer did not properly investigate harassment complaints against me in my workplace in a fair manner,” she wrote.
After an investigation, Whitehills issued a four-day suspension to Ford and a one-day suspension to Paris.
Ford went off work on April 24 on long-term disability (LTD) due to stress from “constant harassment and bullying and discrimination.”
The employer countered and said all complaints were dealt with and there were no grievances filed against the previous suspensions. Whitehills said the reason Ford went on LTD was because she did not agree to change shifts so the two employees wouldn’t work together because Ford would have been moved to an evening shift. 
Arbitrator Augustus Richardson threw out the grievance. 
“Their working relationship appears to have gotten off on the wrong foot when Paris asked the grievor for a kiss. It never recovered, notwithstanding Paris’s subsequent apology. They squabbled over whether or how they were performing their respective job duties when they were required to work together on the same shift. The friction became so bad that each at one point levelled formal complaints of harassment against the other. And they each rejected opportunities to resolve their personality conflicts: The grievor, when she failed to accept Paris’s apology; Paris, when she scuttled mediation by filing a formal complaint against the grievor.”
The blame for the hard feelings should be given to both employees, said Richardson, and not the employer. 
“The employer’s decision to discipline Paris is evidence that the employer was not happy with her conduct, and was attempting to encourage her to be more professional in her relations with (Ford). In other words, the employer did not ignore the grievor’s position that Paris was the one causing a problem. It was just not persuaded that Paris was the only one responsible for the conflict that had developed in its workplace.”
Reference: Whitehills Long Term Care Centre and Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 1259. Augustus Richardson — arbitrator. Noella Martin, Nicole Heelan for the employer. Todd MacPherson for the employee. Dec. 21, 2018. 2018 CarswellNS 1013

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