A British Columbia labor arbitrator has upheld the firing of an addictions counselor who refused to comply with an order requiring health authority employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to decisionLori Capozzi had worked for the Fraser Health Authority for seven years and had an undisciplined record when she was fired last November after ‘multiple notifications’ about the vaccine requirement.
Arbitrator Koml Kandola said the case was “not about the validity of the hospital and community order” mandating the vaccination of healthcare workers, nor about “the benefits or harms of vaccination”.
Instead, Kandola said the question is whether the health authority had reasonable grounds to terminate an employee in the context of an order from the BC Provincial Health Officer (PHO) imposing new rules.
“It is undisputed that [Capozzi] informed that she will not be vaccinated and that she does not intend to do so. There is no exemption available to him under the Order,” Kandola wrote.
“Put simply, there was no way forward for [her] for continued employment.
“Never intended to be vaccinated”
The British Columbia Ministry of Health says nearly 2,500 health care workers have been fired in the province for refusing to be vaccinated, in defiance of a series of rules that culminated in a provincial order in last October.
The arbitrator’s decision says 460 Fraser Health Authority employees lost their jobs.
According to the decision, Capozzi repeatedly expressed his “strong objection” to the vaccination, sending a “personal statement of responsibility” to his manager last October, “alleging that the vaccination requirement was illegal and claiming that his manager would be personally liable for any loss of income. »
On October 29, 2021, Capozzi “confirmed that she was not and never intended to be vaccinated”.
“She indicated that she opposed vaccination on religious grounds and that she believed the PHO order was illegal and violated the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms,]” says the decision.
The decision says Capozzi was offered Johnson and Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, but confirmed on November 25, 2021 that “she had ‘absolutely’ no intention of getting a vaccination” – after which she been fired.
Capozzi’s post has since been filled.
She “testified that the period following her dismissal was very difficult for her. Since then, she has been providing one-on-one consulting services through her own business,” Kandola wrote.
The union argued that “temporary incapacity for work” does not justify dismissal and pointed out that the Hospital and Community Ordinance did not require dismissal.
Operational Considerations for Shooting
Fraser Health Authority managers testified they made the decision to fire unvaccinated employees because there was ‘no identifiable path’ for them to be eligible for the job.
One executive testified that posting temporary positions while unvaccinated employees were furloughed would pose its own problems: “the median time to fill temporary positions is twice that needed for permanent positions; temporary positions are considered undesirable and hard to fill…and temporary positions can experience a lot of turnover. »
“Fraser Health Authority did not consider it reasonable to place the employee on unpaid leave of unknown duration, in the expectation that either the employee or the PHO would change direction,” the ruling reads.
To reach a conclusion, Kandola weighed Capozzi’s pristine disciplinary record and seniority against the health authority’s operational needs.
“Termination of employment is the most serious of the consequences on employment. [Capozzi] suffered emotionally as a result,” Kandola wrote.
“At the other end of the scale is the existence of a government order with no expiry date, no indication of the order being lifted in the near future, and the severe operational impacts on the system of associated with placing unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave. Leave of absence of indefinite duration.”
Capozzi did not respond to a call for comment.