“Manager” should be “narrowly construed”: CLC Adjudicator

On January 30, 2015, Adjudicator François Bastien, appointed pursuant to the Canada Labour Code, issued an important decision impacting all employees with supervisory duties working in federally regulated sectors.

Generally, employees who are unjustly dismissed can bring a complaint and have their grievance heard by an adjudicator appointed under the Canada Labour Code. Managers cannot avail themselves of this process.

In Timiskaming First Nation, the Employer brought a preliminary objection alleging that the employee, who worked as the Director General of the First Nation Government, was a manager. The Employer asked the Board to dismiss the complaint.

In dismissing the employer’s objection, the Board confirmed that “it is important to keep in mind that underlying it, is the notion underscored by the Federal Court […], that while undefined in the Code, ‘manager’ is a term that ought to be narrowly construed under that Code.” The Board further endorsed the fact that a broader interpretation of the term “manager” could exclude many employees from the benefits of the unjust dismissal provisions of the Code.

This decision underscores the importance of reviewing the particular context of every workplace before making a determination as to whether an employee can properly be characterized as a “manager” under the Code. The Board fully recognized that the employee in question performed many functions at a high level – but nonetheless dismissed the Employer’s objection on the basis that her role fell short of the test of independent action over a significant range of matters.

Through this decision, the Board provides all employees with supervisory duties working in federally regulated sectors much needed clarity with respect to their rights under the Code.

The employee in this case was represented by Wassim Garzouzi of Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP/s.r.l.