Strong Start to 2022 for COVID-19 Vaccine-Related Terminations

Mandatory Vaccination Policy Found Unreasonable in Arbitration

Throughout the previous year, we have seen many workplaces adopt controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandates. To some, it is a necessary measure to protect the workforce and the Canadian public at large. To others, it is a violation of bodily autonomy and human rights. Given this divide, it is unsurprising that many individuals have refused to become vaccinated notwithstanding the risk to their employment.

As of the first week of the New Year 2022, we have already begun to see the effects.

City of Toronto Terminations

On Wednesday, January 5th, the City of Toronto announced that they had fired 461 city employees for their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These 461 employees either had not received any COVID-19 vaccine, or did not report their vaccination status as required (perhaps for perceived privacy reasons, although the feasibility of this argument appears shaky in light of a recent labour arbitration decision). Notably, approximately 98.6% of the City’s employees (representing approximately 32,478 active employees) did receive their vaccinations and were in compliance with the mandate, meaning that the 461 terminations represented a very small fraction of the City’s workforce.

As for employees who remain partially vaccinated, their future with the City remains uncertain. There are currently 248 City employees who have only received their first shot. According to the City’s statement:

“Starting this week, those 248 employees with one dose will have a vaccination status meeting with their manager and, if applicable, their union representative. If at that meeting the employee is found to still not have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, employment could be terminated that day. Consideration will be given to employees who have an appointment booked for their second dose.”

It appears, therefore, that partially vaccinated employees must act quickly to secure their second dose, otherwise they may find themselves terminated as well.

There are also 37 City employees on temporary leave awaiting a decision on accommodation requests. These likely are accommodations requested under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990 and would include requests such as medical or religious accommodation. Interestingly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a statement in September, 2021, suggesting that personal beliefs relating to vaccines is not a protected ground under the Human Rights Code and will not protect employees from termination.

To conclude, I will leave you with a quote from the City Manager, Chris Murray:

“With the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases across the city, driven by the Omicron variant, it is good to know the City’s employees are doing all they can to protect each other and the people of Toronto.”

Toronto Police Officers Placed on “Indefinite” Unpaid Leave

While the City proceeds to terminate over 400 employees, it appears as though they may not be terminating their police who refuse vaccines. Instead, Toronto police who refuse vaccination will remain on indefinite unpaid leave. When they become fully vaccinated and disclose their updated vaccination status, they will be able to return to work.

Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for Mayor John Tory, had this to say:

“Recognizing that much of employee relations when it comes to policing, including terminations, is governed and bound by the provincial Police Services Act, the Mayor is confident Chief Ramer is doing all he can to protect the health and safety of all members of the police service and encourage members to get vaccinated.”

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