Employer Must Reimburse Employee Relocation Expenses, Board Rules

An employer must reimburse employee relocation expenses if it does not have specific evidence that it could have staffed a vacant position through other means, according to a recent Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board decision.

The decision dealt with two grievances filed by Border Services Officers with the Canada Border Services Agency. Both employees had requested to move to a new city in order to fill a vacant position. Under the NJC Relocation Directive, employees who request a move to fill a vacant position are entitled to reimbursement for a wide range of relocation expenses, unless the employer can establish that it could have filled the vacant position without relocation expenses.

In both cases before the Board, the employer alleged that it could have filled the vacancies in issue with a freshly-trained recruit. At hearing, however, the employer’s witnesses testified that there were more vacancies than available recruits at the time of the grievances and that they had no way of knowing if the vacancies in issue would have, in fact, been filled if the grievors had not relocated.

The Board found that this evidence was insufficient to meet the employer’s obligation to prove that it could have filled the vacant positions without relocation expenses. As the Board concluded, the employer’s assertion that it could have filled the vacancies “must not be a hollow statement; there must be some facts behind it to back it up.” The Board therefore ordered that CBSA reimburse both grievors for their eligible relocation expenses, as the employer’s reason for refusing to do so was “without factual underpinning.”

The grievors and the Public Service Alliance of Canada were represented by Morgan Rowe.