Court case over fired jan­i­tor prompts de­bate over mean­ing of ‘Kafkaesque’

Waterloo Region Record - - NEWS -

FRED­ER­IC­TON — A New Brunswick judge has stepped in to an­swer a ques­tion that has puz­zled some of the world’s most prom­i­nent thinkers: What ex­actly does Kafkaesque mean?

In a new rul­ing, Jus­tice Hugh McLel­lan de­fines Kafkaesque as the strug­gle “against rules and forces that can­not be un­der­stood.”

The word — ar­guably one of the most overused ad­jec­tives of our time — had become a fun­da­men­tal is­sue in a case in­volv­ing a Fred­er­ic­ton lab jan­i­tor fired in 2015 af­ter he didn’t go to work for more than a month.

Paul Lynch had been jailed for his sev­enth drunk-driv­ing-re­lated con­vic­tion, and claimed to be un­able to con­tact his bosses at the Doc­tor Everett Chalmers Hos­pi­tal in Fred­er­ic­ton to tell them why he stopped com­ing to work.

It was be­cause he was jailed for six months.

Lynch said he never had a chance to use a phone to con­tact his em­ployer, and that no one came to his hear­ing who could have made the call for him.

Labour ad­ju­di­ca­tor John McEvoy or­dered the health author­ity to give him his job back, in a de­ci­sion that de­clared “no one ... should face the Kafka-like sit­u­a­tion faced by Lynch in re­spect of his in­abil­ity to con­tact his em­ployer.”

The health author­ity went to Court of Queen’s Bench to have the ad­ju­di­ca­tor’s rul­ing quashed, and al­though there were other le­gal ques­tions at play, the ref­er­ence to the Prague-born nov­el­ist be­came a key is­sue.

In the end, the judge sug­gested sim­ply he thought the word was fine, and up­held the rul­ing re­in­stat­ing Lynch.

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