员工遭独裁上司”霸凌” 被迫辞职 法官判雇主“变相解雇”

员工遭独裁上司”霸凌” 被迫辞职 法官判雇主“变相解雇”

员工遭独裁上司”霸凌” 被迫辞职 法官判雇主“变相解雇”

老沙是Xerox的资深员工。 1982年他从Seneca学院的计算机电子技术专业毕业后便到Xerox就职,从合同工到正式雇员,他在公司内部担任多个职位。直到1995年春天,老沙都不愧是模范员工,他在所有职位上均表现出色,薪水和奖金节节高升。老沙工作技能出众,人却腼腆内向,不善言辞,内心颇为敏感。

1995年5月,老沙一向顺顺当当的职业生涯出现了波澜,由于公司内部的职位调动,他有了一位新上司哈维。哈维是个脾气火爆,雄心勃勃,能言善辩的管理者。他积极运用新的管理方式,激励手下承担更多责任,期待人人具备“企业家”意识。这套模式和老沙从前相对独立的工作方式格格不入,老沙充满困惑。同时他也发现,其他员工都参加的培训会议偏偏把他排除在外,这让他深感失望。半年过去了,老沙成了哈维手下团队里的“异类”和局外人。

1995年11月底,哈维在对拉沙的工作评估会议上,对老沙的工作表现提出了顾虑和目标设定。会议记录显示,哈维的顾虑并无具体依据,也没有对老沙工作的实质性批评。

1996年3月18日,哈维再次和老沙面谈,对其工作开展测评。第二天,老沙惊讶的发现,等待自己的是一封措辞非常严厉的“ 警告信”,信中说:

如此的工作表现连最低标准都达不到。你必须马上改善,才能保住你的职位。

老沙惊呆了,哈维所指的差劲表现,他已经在18日的会谈中给予了解释,并非什么大不了的问题。而哈维直到庭审上,也没说出老沙到底错在哪里。实际上,他对老沙日常具体做些什么根本就不清楚,他声称对老沙差评来自其他人的投诉,但又给不出投诉的细节。

此时,老沙的家庭事务也让他头痛不已,媳妇第5次流产,父亲糖尿病住院,他自己也又急又气生了病。从3月到5月,老沙断断续续请了不少病假。

5月份的一个工作会议上,老沙被分配到一份长长的任务清单,并被要求签字承诺完成这些任务。老沙的态度是,工作可以做,字不能签。为啥呢?这些任务都是以前分配过,但没人能完成的“硬骨头”,这不是明摆着要让老沙出丑?老沙认为,自己是被上司“陷害”了。

老沙拒绝签字,哈维的第二封“警告信”跟着就来了:

你的工作表现远远达不到职位的要求。

从现在起你要每天早上向上司汇报一天的工作安排。

5月9号你没上班,也没提前通知公司。以后请病假必须有医生签字的证明,还必须经过我的提前批准。

在法庭上,哈维给不出任何具体的例子证明老沙工作表现低于标准,至于5月9号因病缺席,哈维承认当时收到了老沙的语音信息请病假。

5月17号,老沙与哈维及人事部门主管会谈,他说明了家人和自己的健康状况堪忧,希望能有6周的“无薪假期”,照顾生病的父亲,同时也暂时得到一些缓解,以便思考工作中的问题。哈维断然拒绝。30分钟后,哈维给出了老沙最后通牒:

从即日起进入“观察试用期”,直到6月17日,如不能改善工作表现,在试用期结束时或者之前,便要拎包走人。

好脾气的老沙终于再也无法忍受来自哈维的压力和羞辱式的批评,他在5月21日致信哈维说:

在此通知你,我正式辞职。

如你了解,我在5月17日的会议上,出于个人原因,请求获得6周的不带薪假期。你拒绝我的请求并让我进入“观察期”。 基于我的个人状况,当前工作困惑的现状,以及对我休假的拒绝,加之公司对我之前身体不适多有怀疑。我决定就此辞职,即刻生效。

我在Xerox工作的14年都十分愉快,我一向按照要求完成工作,而且常常是出色地完成任务。

法官在听取了老沙和上司哈维各自的证词后,认为老沙和哈维的争端源自三个方面:

  1. 1995年底公司实施的管理结构有缺陷
  2. 哈维未能让老沙融入他所管理的团队,交给老沙的任务指示不明确
  3. 老沙和哈维性格迥异,或说冲突

法官认为,哈维对待老沙的态度“专横决断,缺乏耐心和宽容”,对于老沙暂时遭遇的家庭问题毫不关心,也从未耐心和老沙讨论工作中的议题,并共同寻找解决方案。当老沙因病缺席时,哈维只是简单看了缺席记录,从未花点时间了解一下老沙是遵照医嘱才休息在家。

无论是哈维给老沙的两封警告信还是最终“观察试用”的决定,都毫无预先的提醒,商谈,而是在缺乏足够证据的前提下的“独裁”做法。

这样的待遇让老沙觉得,忍无可忍,无需再忍,这样的工作,不做也罢!

虽然这次老沙主动提出了辞职,但法庭最终判决的结果却是:

老沙被“变相解雇”(constructive dismissal),雇主需要赔偿一年的工资加员工福利作为解雇金。Xerox公司不服判决,提起上诉。上诉庭的法官认为初审法官的论证完全符合案例法一脉相承的精神,因此百分百支持初审判决,驳回上诉。

法庭为什么会做出这样的判决呢?在本案之前,经典案例法Farber v. Royal Trust Co.这样定义“变相解雇”:

通过多个加拿大案例法的阐释,如果雇主单方面对雇佣合同的关键条款做出实质性变更,而导致违约-合同终止。此时,雇员可以认为自己遭到了“变相解雇”。(职位名存实亡)

您可能要问了,老沙既没有被降职,也没被扣工资,工作性质,工作地点都和原来一样,这怎么算是对合同的实质性变更呢?

其实,Farber和其他的案例法还对变相解雇提出了一种更为宽泛的解释:

在变相解雇的诉讼案中,如果合同的一方显示出自己无意再继续为合同所约束,则构成了违约。

比如说,当上司对待员工的行为让员工觉得无法忍受时,其行为已经对是对雇佣合同的全盘否定,而不仅仅是对合同中某具体条款的违犯。 在来自曼尼托巴的案例Whiting v. Winnipeg River Brokenhead Community Futures Development Corp. (1998) 中,雇主对员工不公正地进行批评,在缺乏足够证据的情况下指责员工做错了事,让员工不得不在在充满敌意的尴尬氛围中工作。从客观的角度看,员工无法继续在这样的氛围中工作。虽然职位还在,和被解雇没什么两样。

老沙的案情和上述案例颇为相似,法官的判断也一致。

老沙的故事来自真实案例,初审案件索引标题:Shah v. Xerox Canada Ltd., 1998 CanLII 14747 (ON SC), 上诉案件索引标题:Shah v. Xerox Canada Ltd., 2000 CanLII 2317 (ON CA)

这桩在2000年完成终审案件同样成为“变相解雇”案例法中的经典,为多个后续判决所参考。它也不停为雇主们敲响着警钟:工作场所上司对下属(或员工之间)的欺凌,很可能成为诉讼案的导火索,让公司不得不为霸道员工的无理行为买单。

 

 

英文參考文章:

https://hrinsider.ca/search-by-index/termination-search-by-index/is-supervisor-bullying-grounds-for-constructive-dismissal

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Is Supervisor Bullying Grounds for Constructive Dismissal?

Posted By Administrator On March 1, 2012 @ 13:10 In TERMINATION,WORKPLACE CONDUCT & POLICIES,WORKPLACE VIOLENCE | Comments Disabled

In a recent survey, 37% of Canadian workers said they’ve been bullied at work—3 times as many who reported they were sexually harassed. In 71% of the cases, the victims claimed they were bullied by a supervisor. As an HR director, these numbers should make you nervous. Very nervous. Workplace bullying is rapidly becoming a major liability risk for employers with potential consequences under OHS and human rights laws. But most disconcerting of all about having a bullying supervisor in your midst may be the risk of being sued for constructive dismissal by his victims. Here’s a look at the danger and how to protect against it.

Click here [1] to find out more about how you can be liable for bullying in your workplace 
Click here [2] for a Workplace Bullying Policy
Click here [3] for a Workplace Conflict Resolution Procedure
Click here [4] for a look at the workplace bullying legislation in your jurisdiction

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM

Constructive dismissal is termination by deed rather than action. It occurs when employers unilaterally impose unfavourable changes to employment. Such changes are as if the employer is tearing up the contract. Rather than accept the changes, employees can treat the contract as terminated at the employer’s initiative and sue for wrongful dismissal.

Historically, constructive dismissal has been based on changes to economic conditions like wages, benefits, work hours, responsibilities. But in the past decade, it’s been extended to a hostile work environment. The theory: Under every employment contract, employers have at least an implied duty to treat employees with civility, respect and dignity. Allowing the employee to be bullied is a repudiation of that obligation justifying constructive dismissal. And if the bullying is egregious enough to cause the victim mental distress, it can lead to “exemplary” damages includingWallace damages for carrying out the termination in bad faith.

The seminal case is a 2000 ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeals called Shah v. Xerox Canada Ltd., 2000 CanLII 2317 (ON CA), March 20, 2000. From the beginning, the soft-spoken, shy technical support analyst who filed the case was uncomfortable with his straight-shooting and asserting supervisor and his “empowerment” approach. For his part, the supervisor quickly became disenchanted with what he perceived to be the analyst’s passivity and failure to meet deadlines. Criticisms and warnings followed. The analyst became so stressed out that he began missing work, which only served to make the supervisor even more patient. Upon returning from short-term disability, the analyst received 3 days’ probation and an ultimatum: Improve immediately or look for a new job. He opted for the latter.

The court ruled that the analyst had been constructively dismissed and awarded him 12 months’ notice + benefits. The supervisor’s conduct was “intolerable” and the analyst’s “continued employment in such environment was no longer possible.”

What Supervisor Conduct = Bullying?

Conduct by a supervisor is bullying and grounds for constructive dismissal if a “reasonable person” wouldn’t tolerate it, i.e., leave the job rather than put up with it. Although it can be the product of a single action, like the assault in the Hansen case below, the cases reveal that bullying is most often a pattern of conduct repeated over time. Examples from actual rulings:

CASE SUPERVISOR CONDUCT JUSTIFYING CONST. DISMISSAL FOR BULLYING
Morland v. Kenmara Inc., [2006] O.J. No. 657, Feb. 20, 2006 Profanity. Boss’s tirades against sales rep including repeated use of “f” word and calling her a “bitch” (4 months’ notice)
Stamos v. Annuity Research & Marketing Service Ltd., [2002] O.J. No. 1865, May 13, 2002 Threats and intimidation. Boss makes threatening comments to, points finger in face of and kicks open employee’s door. Culmination of course of abuse causing employee stress. 6 months’ notice.
Cooke v. HTS Engineering Ltd.,[2009] O.J. No. 5650, Dec. 18, 2009 Sexual harassment and belittling. Engineering supervisor’s makes repeated unwelcome comments about female employee’s sex life, breasts and intelligence (“I’ll bet you can’t get past Question 2 of this” while brandishing an IQ test). 2 months’ notice.
Qubti v. Reprodux Ltd., [2010] O.J. No. 467, Feb. 4, 2010 Name calling and verbal abuse. Palestinian driver puts up with 7 years of being called demeaning names by his supervisors, including “helmet washer” and “Reli” (a combination of “retard” and Elias, his first name). 6 months’ notice.
Pannell v. Imperial Paving Ltd.,[2010] B.C.J. No. 2480, Dec. 9, 2010 Coercion and humiliation. Company tries to bully dispatcher into accepting reduction of pay, responsibilities and hours. “You can be a flag girl or flip burgers if you don’t like it,” says boss. 5 months’ notice.
Garneau v. Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, [2002] C.L.A.D. No. 334, July 12, 2002 Isolating and ignoring. Female administrator grows increasingly frustrated at lack of respect shown by her male supervisors. Her numerous notes expressing her concerns are ignored and there’s no dispute resolution process she can use. Unilaterally cutting her salary is last straw in constructive dismissal. 8 months’ notice.  
Saunders v. Chateau Des Charmes Wines Ltd., [2002] O.J. No. 3990, Sept. 30, 2002 Hostility and aggression. Manager repeatedly yells and swears at sales man for small mistakes and calms down later. But when another little mess-up occurs, the manager goes ballistic and reaches new levels of hostility and anger. The abuse continues without a cooling off period for 2 weeks, after which the supervisor tells the sales man to take a demotion or leave of absence to “clear his head.” 2 days later, he changes the locks on the sales man’s office door. 9 months’ notice.
Hansen v. Elite Lithographers Co. Ltd., [2004] A.J. No. 35, Jan. 20, 2004 Physical assault. After employee botches a print job, the owner of the company not only hollers at him but grabs him by the shirt and pushes him against the wall. The employee quits on the spot and wins $38,000 in damages, including 5 months’ notice. 

What Supervisor Conduct ≠ Bullying

Remember that bullying is conduct that a reasonable person in the employee’s circumstances would tolerate, not what the actual victim thinks is tolerable. That might sound like a legal technicality but it has enormous practical impact. The reason it’s so important is that it gives leeway for supervisors to exercise legitimate supervisory functions that a thin-skinned employee might perceive as bullying without crossing the line. In other words, bullying is not the use but abuse of supervisory authority. Bullying does not include:

  • Normal exercise of day-to-day management, e.g., issuing orders, criticizing poor performance and legitimate imposition of discipline;
  • Work conflicts that can arise in any workplace—although such conflicts can lead to bullying if they’re not managed correctly; and
  • Difficult work conditions that can result in causing stress to employees as long as those conditions are non-arbitrary and economically or technologically justifiable.          

4 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

  1. Do a Workplace Bullying Hazard Assessment

If you’ve implemented a workplace violence prevention program, dealing with bullying should be relatively simple. Start by doing a hazard assessment. Key steps to finding out if you have a bullying problem at your workplace:

Survey employees: Ask them if they’ve ever been bullied or witnessed a bullying incident at work. Because “bullying” is a judgment call, a good survey should ask employees about specific observed behaviours by supervisors toward subordinates such as:

  • Verbal abuse and name-calling;
  • Slurs or sexually inappropriate remarks;
  • Belittling of a personal nature;
  • Excessive and unfair criticism;
  • Yelling and screaming;
  • Use of profanity;
  • Threats of firing or other job actions;
  • Physical intimidation, such as getting into an employee’s face;
  • Deliberate imposition of impossible demands; and
  • Deliberate efforts to undermine the employee’s work such as by withholding critical information.

The more bullying behaviours employees say they observe, the redder the flag that should go up. Because employees may be reluctant to provide candid answers, you might want to let them complete the survey anonymously; if knowing the identity of the respondent is important for follow-up, offer assurances of confidentiality and let employees know that they won’t be subject to retaliation for reporting problems.

Examine previous incidents: Go back at least 3 years to determine if any bullying has occurred at your workplace. Analyze previous incidents to detect patterns, including who did the bullying, who was the victim, what happened and how was the problem resolved.  

Evaluate existing measures: Look at your current workplace violence and harassment measures to determine if they address bullying and, if so, whether they’ve been effective. This is where input from your company’s Joint Health and Safety Committee or health and safety representative can really come in handy.   

  1. Create a Workplace Bullying Policy[2]

Once you complete your hazard assessment, you must take measures to address any bullying problems you uncover. The first measure is to implement an anti-bullying policy. Although you need to adapt it to your own circumstances, the Model Workplace Bullying Policy [2] in TOOLS is a good starting point because it has the basic elements a policy should have, including:

  • A statement of the organization’s commitment to provide a civilized and respectful workplace;
  • A definition of what conduct you consider to be bullying;
  • Just as importantly, a definition of the conduct you don’t consider bullying, i.e., exercise of legitimate management functions like discipline and constructive criticism, which lawyers tell us, helps prevent employees from bringing baseless bullying claims;
  • A description of your bullying reporting, investigation and resolution procedures; and
  • A statement of the disciplinary consequences of bullying.
  1. Implement a Workplace Conflict Resolution Procedure[3]

Having a disagreement or even a personality conflict with an underling doesn’t make a supervisor a bully. But left unchecked, it can serve as the basis for bullying behaviour. So one innovative way to prevent bullying is to establish a procedure for resolving workplace conflicts in a fair, respectful and constructive manner. The Model Workplace Conflict Procedure [3] in TOOLS is an example that you can adapt for your own organization.

  1. Educate Employees about Workplace Bullying

As with workplace violence, education is crucial to managing bullying risks. At a minimum, you need to instruct employees:

  • What behaviours by supervisors are and are not bullying;
  • How to report supervisor bullying they’re subjected to or witness;
  • How the organization investigates such reports;
  • The disciplinary consequences of bullying behaviour; and
  • The things the organization has done to prevent and provide support to victims of bullying, e.g., the Employee Assistance Program.
  • How the company investigates incidents, threats and complaints; and

Conclusion

The preventive measures outlined above will protect your organization not only against supervisor bullying but “mobbing,” or bullying by colleagues. And, in addition to constructive dismissal, the measures will enable you to manage the other liability risks associated with workplace bullying, including:

  • Workplace violence and harassment violations under OHS laws (and psychological harassment in Québec) (Click here [4] to find out the requirements of your jurisdiction);
  • Lawsuits for infliction of mental distress (like the $950,000 supervisor bullying case against the RCMP by a former officer in Sulz v. Canada (Atty. General), [2006] B.C.J. No. 121, Jan. 19, 2006].
  • Victims’ claims for  work-related stress benefits under workers’ comp; and
  • Employment discrimination and harassment where bullying is based on the victim’s sex, race, disability, religion, nationality, sexual preference, etc.

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