Employer cites 'reckless action' and 'disregard for safety'
A recent arbitration proceeding in Alberta dealt with a case involving a bus driver who allegedly endangered his clients’ safety after intentionally stepping on the brakes all while his passengers were still standing.
In his defense, the worker said that he did not perform a “hard brake” and was only running slowly, contrary to what his clients were arguing.
The worker worked for Diversified Transportation as a professional driver responsible for picking up drivers at the company’s site and transporting them to specific locations in Northern Alberta. The business is mainly in the oil and gas industry and clients include companies such as Suncor, IPL, Dow Chemicals and Syncrude.
One fateful day, when he came to pick up his clients, the worker specifically recalled telling them, “Guys, I am ready, please get in your seat” three times. Yet, two passengers were busy talking to other people and did not respond to the driver’s warning.
During that time, the driver said that he released the parking brake causing the bus to roll forward, going only one or two kilometers at most. “He denied it was a hard brake, however, noted that the brakes are very sensitive,” the decision said.
The incident, however, resulted in the injuries of two passengers, and, ultimately, the worker’s conduct led to his dismissal.
The employer noted that it decided to dismiss the worker based on his reckless action and complete disregard for his own safety and the safety of his passengers.
It further argued that “as a direct result of his poor judgement there were significant consequences for the passengers on the bus and the potential for economic and reputational risk,” according to the arbitrator.
Moreover, the employer argued that the worker’s version of the incident was too inconsistent to be deemed credible as six of the passengers in the vehicle, who were all professional drivers, were confident that the worker indeed engaged in a “hard” and abrupt break risking the safety of his passengers.
After careful examination, the arbitrator decided to uphold the dismissal of the worker as it found the worker’s actions as “deliberate” and made with “extremely poor judgment.”
What is apparent in the case, according to the decision, is the fact the worker moved the bus, which he should not have allowed as several passengers were still standing. The arbitrator was also satisfied that the worker applied a hard brake during the incident.
“The fact this incident occurred with a bus full of diversified drivers underscores the importance of messaging, accountability, and consistency,” the decision said.
“The employer cannot be seen to allow blatant safety infractions to go unaddressed, particularly when it resulted in a significant injury to a co-worker,” it added, noting that the employer’s action to dismiss the worker was reasonable and just.