For­mer Bay Roberts em­ployee cries foul over ter­mi­na­tion

Em­ployee says she was fired while on sick leave

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

A for­mer em­ployee with the Town of Bay Roberts says she was wrong­fully ter­mi­nated by the town’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer (CAO).

Paula Bow­er­ing, a non-union­ized em­ployee, had been em­ployed with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity since 2006 as a clerk re­cep­tion­ist. She told The Compass she had never been rep­ri­manded for any­thing.

On April 29, Bow­er­ing had seen her doc­tor, who took her off work for med­i­cal rea­sons.

“(The doc­tor) put me off for one month,” Bow­er­ing said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day, May 27. “I didn’t want to go off work, but I did.”

She sent a photo of the med­i­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion to CAO Nigel Black through text mes- sage be­cause he was out of town. She sent the photo with a mes­sage say­ing she would work Fri­day, May 1, and then would be on sick leave be­gin­ning May 4.

This was not the first time Bow­er­ing had taken some time off for health rea­sons. She said she had three surg­eries the pre­vi­ous year and was off work for a pe­riod to re­cover.

A text mes­sage ex­change then en­sued be­tween Bow­er­ing and Black. The Compass was given

screen shots from the con­ver­sa­tion.

On the day she sent the doc­tor’s note, Black told Bow­er­ing the note would “not be ad­e­quate any­more” and she must pro­vide more spe­cific doc­u­men­ta­tion.

Bow­er­ing asked what ex­actly she would need to pro­vide since she did not be­lieve it was nec­es­sary to give the specifics of pri­vate health mat­ters.

“What is dif­fer­ent now than last week? Do you want to work for the town or not? I won’t be do­ing any ex­tra leave again,” the text from Black said.

He re­quested a meet­ing with her, which she de­clined.

“I have no choice. I love my job,” she texted. “It’s killing me to have to do this, but it’s my doc­tor’s or­ders…”

Be­cause she was go­ing to be off for longer than a week, she also re­quired a record of em­ploy­ment (ROE) not­ing sick leave.

On Mon­day, May 4, Black re­it­er­ated his re­quest for a meet­ing. Bow­er­ing re­fused.

Ter­mi­na­tion

On May 11, Bow­er­ing re­ceived a let­ter from Black in­form­ing her she had been re­lieved of her du­ties. The Compass has a copy of the let­ter.

In it, Black ex­plains that he had wanted to meet with her to dis­cuss mak­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions in the work­place as an al­ter­na­tive to her tak­ing time off, and to dis­cuss the town’s benefits and va­ca­tion pol­icy and the de­tails for leave as out­lined in the Labour Stan­dards Act.

In New­found­land and Labrador, an em­ployer is re­quired to give seven days’ un­paid leave for med­i­cal is­sues, and a note is re­quired for more than three days. How­ever, the Canadian Labour Code says, “the em­ployee is en­ti­tled to sick leave pro­tec­tion of up to 17 weeks if they have worked for the same em­ployer for at least three con­sec­u­tive months. The em­ployee must pro­vide a med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate if their em­ployer re­quests one — in writ­ing — within 15 days of the re­turn to work.”

When Bow­er­ing re­ceived her record of em­ploy­ment, it said she had been dis­missed from her po­si­tion.

“I would like an apol­ogy and a fixed ROE,” Bow­er­ing told The Compass, her eyes fill­ing with tears.

Bow­er­ing de­clined to spec­ify her ail­ments to Black, say­ing it felt like a breach of her pri­vacy. She also didn’t think she should have been asked to go to the of­fice for a meet­ing while she was on sick leave.

The Compass has learned town coun­cil was made aware of Bow­er­ing’s ter­mi­na­tion af­ter she re­ceived her let­ter May 11. She said she has only heard from one coun­cil­lor re­gard­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

Black re­sponds

As the CAO, Black is re­spon­si­ble for ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks, which may in­clude ter­mi­nat­ing em­ploy­ees. He fol­lows guide­lines set out by the coun­cil.

His role is clear in the Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil­lor’s Hand­book.

“The town manager is re­spon­si­ble for the co-or­di­na­tion, di­rec­tion, and su­per­vi­sion of all mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees and de­part­ments, and has the author­ity to hire, dis­ci­pline, sus­pend, or dis­miss any coun­cil em­ployee. It should be noted, how­ever, that only coun­cil can hire, sus­pend, or dis­miss the clerk or a depart­ment head.”

It does not spec­ify if an em­ployee can be ter­mi­nated while on sick leave.

The Compass con­tacted Black for com­ment. He wouldn’t get into specifics, but he did pro­vide a state­ment.

“The Town of Bay Roberts treats all per­son­nel is­sues with con­fi­den­tially, and as such I will not be dis­cussing the specifics of this case with the me­dia. I can con­firm that Paula Bow­er­ing’s em­ploy­ment with the town was re­cently ter­mi­nated. If the for­mer em­ployee feels they were wrong­fully dis­missed, un­fairly treated or that the town’s ac­tions were out­side of its leg­is­lated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, then that em­ployee should take the ap­pro­pri­ate legal ac­tion to chal­lenge or ques­tion the town’s ac­tion.”

Bow­er­ing said if she does not re­ceive an up­dated ROE and an apol­ogy from the town, she will likely seek legal ad­vice and pos­si­bly file a com­plaint for un­just dis­missal.

The gov­ern­ment of Canada con­firms an ROE is “the sin­gle most im­por­tant doc­u­ment used for es­tab­lish­ing a claim for em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance benefits.”

Bow­er­ing said she be­lieves she did noth­ing wrong in re­fus­ing to go to the town of­fice while on sick leave or pro­vid­ing her em­ployer with a more de­tailed de­scrip­tion of why she was tak­ing time off. She also be­lieves that, since she was on sick leave, her job should have been pro­tected, es­pe­cially with­out other prior no­tice or dis­ci­pline.

“I loved my job,” she said. “I have never been fired from a job in my life.”

COMPASS FILE PHOTO

A for­mer em­ployee with the Town of Bay Roberts be­lieves she was wrong­fully ter­mi­nated last month.

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