Court Upholds Leave of Absence as OK for Dealing with Anti Vaxer:

In Van Hee v Glenmore Inn Holdings Ltd., 2023 ABCJ 244 (CanLII) Justice Burt found that a policy requiring the Covid Vaccine for a restaurant server to be reasonable.

The Plaintiff ( who refused to get vaccinated ) was put on a leave of absence without pay until she either got vaccinated or until the Defendant lifted the vaccine requirement.

The Plaintiff claimed that she had been constructively dismissed. The Court found that she had resigned as soon as she claimed that she had been constructively dismissed.

This is what the Court said :

[68]           In sum, imposing the Policy, including an unpaid leave of absence as a consequence of the Plaintiff choosing not to be vaccinated, did not amount to constructive dismissal nor a breach of the Contract on the part of the Defendant. The evidence as a whole has established the Defendant acted reasonably, lawfully and with justification in enacting the Policy that allowed the Plaintiff to make a choice as to whether she would be vaccinated.

[79]           The law, applied to the facts of this case, supports the conclusion that the Policy was a reasonable, justified and lawful response by the Defendant to the extraordinary circumstances of the Pandemic in 2021. Placing the Plaintiff on unpaid leave balanced the Defendant’s business interests, statutory and contractual obligations, the rights of its employees to a safe work environment, and the safety concerns of its customers, while ensuring that individuals like the Plaintiff could refuse to get vaccinated without termination of employment and instead, choose an unpaid leave of absence.  

My Comments ;

Many cases have already upheld these mandatory vaccine policies.

What is interesting about this case is that it seems to endorse an unpaid LOA, but it may not uphold a termination for just cause.

The highlighted comment about balancing the two interests seems to suggest that had the Plaintiff been terminated instead of being put on a LOA that the outcome may have been different .

However, this begs the question as to how long does an employer have to wait to decide if the person on the LOA needs to be replaced ? It may well be easy to temporarily replace a server, like this Plaintiff, but what if the employee held  a critical position within the company, like the Comptroller? It would be near impossible for an employer to hire a temporary Comptroller that would be subject to termination on a days notice if the Comptroller on  LOA changed their mind and got vaccinated. What is the temporary replacement cost more per diem than the person on layoff? What if the refusing employee declared that they will NEVER get vaccinated ?

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