Workers should beware verbal agreements with bosses. The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) refused to hear a health & safety complaint, reported the April 2012 Highlights bulletin. The reason given was that there had been a verbal settlement agreement and the employee's lawyer had cancelled the hearing. When the employee reviewed the written draft agreement, he disagreed with some of the terms and decided to get a new lawyer and schedule a new hearing. The Board ruled that the part of the Occupational Health & Safety Act that allowed them to inquire into a complaint also allowed them to refuse to inquire. Never mind that the article does not actually say that:
Inquiry by Board
(3) The Board may inquire into any complaint filed under subsection (2) or referral made under subsection (2.1) and section 96 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995, except subsection (5), applies with all necessary modifications as if such section, except subsection (5), is enacted in and forms part of this Act. 1998, c. 8, s. 56 (1); 2011, c. 11, s. 13 (2).
The result of this decision is that the employee can choose to either sign an undesireable agreement or walk away, if that is an option. In this case, it looks like the OLRB chose the expeditious part of its mandate over the effective resolution of labour disputes in Ontario. It also tells eager lawyers to not cancel a workers' hearing until the worker has signed the agreement.
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