Physical and verbal abuse lead to termination
Resident abuse constituting gross misconduct led to the dismissal of Marc Lacelle, a special care aide at the Saskatchewan-based Wascana Rehabilitation Centre.
Lacelle was fired by the Regina Qu’Appelle Regional Health Authority on March 22, 2012. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3967 filed a grievance on his behalf, requesting reinstatement with full redress. Working in the employer’s Veterans Unit, Lacelle provided long-term care for 33 residents.
Lacelle was fired for abuse against Resident A. At the time of the incident Resident A had dementia and required total care for most aspects of his daily living. Because Resident A was somewhat mobile, his bed was equipped with an alarm to alert staff should he sit up or crawl out of bed.
On the evening of Feb. 29, 2012, Resident A was put to bed at about 1 a.m. Over the next hour, his bed alarm was triggered several times. Mila Lauagan, a special care aide working with Lacelle, testified that at 1:45 a.m. the alarm went off yet again, prompting Lacelle to say "I’ve had enough of this shit."
Lauagan testified she followed Lacelle to Resident A’s room.
Lauagan said she checked Resident A and determined he was wet. Because the resident was making noises and waving his hands, signs she took to mean he did not want to be touched, Lauagan suggested they give Resident A time to calm down before completing the change.
She testified Lacelle repeated he had "had enough of this shit," before pulling the resident onto his side, restraining the resident’s hands and lifting his leg onto the resident’s thigh to hold him down. Lauagan said she completed the change before reporting the incident to a manager.
On March 5, Lacelle was advised not to come into work due to an ongoing investigation into the incident and on March 6 he was suspended with pay pending the outcome.
During arbitration, Lacelle testified he somehow tripped during the change, falling onto the resident. He said it was at that point he said, "I’ve had enough of this shit." Lacelle said the fall prompted the outburst, but that he had been referring to life in general, and not Resident A in particular.
Lacelle testified he was going through a difficult period personally at the time in terms of his marriage, his struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and a recent decision to stop taking anti-depressants. Lacelle acknowledged his conduct was unprofessional, but said the words were simply blurted out and not directed at Resident A specifically.
The employer argued Lacelle’s refusal to accept responsibility for his misconduct, show remorse or provide an apology prove he cannot be expected to conform to acceptable standards of behaviour in the future.
The employer further argued his actions were taken in front of a co-worker and there was cause for concern what might occur when no one else is present.
The union requested mitigating factors be taken into account, noting Lacelle’s previously good employment record as well as his personal situation and health status at the time of the incident. The union submitted termination was excessive in Lacelle’s case and requested a lesser penalty be substituted.
The arbitration board found Lacelle’s handling of Resident A constituted physical abuse. His repeating the explicit words in the presence of the resident was found to be an aggravating aspect of the abuse.
Regardless of an individual’s personal problems, the board ruled, "a very high level of self-control is of necessity required by caregivers in the health care field."
Because Lacelle continued to deny the conduct and failed to show any remorse, the board found lesser progressive discipline was unlikely to be rehabilitative.
The grievance was dismissed.
Reference: Regina Qu’Appelle Regional Health Authority and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3967. Arbitration board: Kenneth A. Stevenson (chair), Terry Steininger (employer nominee) and Andrew Huculak (union nominee). Lynn Sanya for the employer, Mira Lewis for the union. May 5, 2014.