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WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY - Employee rights - Jurisdiction - Procedure - Settlements

Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 8:35 AM  

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Appeal by Wieler from a decision by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (Board). The appellant's employment was terminated by the respondent, the Saskatoon Convalescent Home. The termination involved a settlement whereby the appellant received severance pay in exchange for a general release of claims. The appellant executed the release with the receipt of independent legal advice. One month later, she filed a complaint alleging the termination was discriminatory under the former Occupational Health and Safety Act, now the Saskatchewan Employment Act. An occupational health and safety officer concluded the complaint was outside of his jurisdiction. On appeal, a special adjudicator concluded jurisdiction existed, but the complaint was barred by the settlement release. On further appeal, the Board ruled the special adjudicator correctly held that the release prevented the appellant from seeking additional relief under the Act. Wieler appealed to the Court of Appeal.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The Board did not err when it concluded that a complainant under the repealed Occupational Health and Safety Act could release an employer with respect to any past wrongdoing that was personal to the complainant. It was appropriate to examine the circumstances of the settlement to ensure nothing offended the broader societal interest the Act intended to address, while at the same time respecting the freedom to resolve a dispute amicably. It was also appropriate to examine the wording of the release to determine whether it encompassed a discriminatory action, presuming it occurred. Although the officer misstated his jurisdiction, the Board did not commit any legal error warranting judicial interference. Here, the appellant's release clearly prevented her from seeking additional relief under the Act.

Wieler v. Saskatoon Convalescent Home, [2017] S.J. No. 457, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, G.R. Jackson, Ryan-Froslie JJ.A.and Y.G.K. Wilkinson J. (ad hoc), October 20, 2017. Digest No. TLD-November62017007