Federal Court Quashes Minister’s Decision on Work Refusal

In a recent decision, the Federal Court quashed a decision on behalf of the Minister of Labour, in which the Minister had refused to investigate the work refusal of a federal public service employee.

The Applicant employee had notified her employer that she was refusing to work for health and safety reasons in February 2015. On May 13, 2015, the Labour Affairs Officer assigned to the Applicant’s case completed a memorandum recommending a finding of dangerous work. Nonetheless, on July 13, 2015, the Applicant was advised that the Minister was declining to investigate her work refusal on the basis that her concerns were better addressed through a grievance.

In its January 31, 2017 decision, the Federal Court held that the Minister’s decision was unreasonable. The Court found that the decision-maker had offered no transparent or justifiable explanation for rejecting the Labour Affairs Officer’s recommendation or for concluding that the grievance process was a more appropriate way to address the Applicant’s concerns.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court also highlighted the importance of ensuring that refusals of unsafe work are dealt with in a timely manner, through the specialized process established under the Canada Labour Code, noting that it found the Applicant’s submissions on these points persuasive.

The Applicant was represented in this application by Andrew Raven and Morgan Rowe of RavenLaw.