London, Ontario –May 30, 2024

https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onla/doc/2024/2024canlii48714/2024canlii48714.html

Arbitrator orders reinstatement of unvaccinated London Health Sciences hospital worker, finds termination lacked just cause. London, Ontario – Arbitrator Mark Wright has ruled in favor of Jill Thompson, a former Child and Youth Counsellor at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), who was terminated for not complying with the hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. 

The ruling, issued on May 30, 2024, found that while the hospital's vaccination policy was reasonable, the termination of Thompson lacked just cause. Jill Thompson, who had been employed at LHSC since 2003, was terminated on October 22, 2021, after she chose to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 despite the hospital's mandatory vaccination policy. 

The policy required all staff to be fully vaccinated by October 22, 2021, or face termination unless they had an approved medical or human rights exemption. Thompson, who had no prior disciplinary record, did not seek an exemption and adhered to regular antigen testing before the termination date. The union, Unifor Local 27, filed a grievance on Thompson’s behalf on the day of her termination, arguing that the hospital’s action was unjust and violated the collective agreement. 

The case proceeded to arbitration, with hearings conducted on July 25, 2023, and January 11, 2024. Written submissions were provided by both parties in March and April 2024. Arbitrator Wright found the hospital's vaccination policy reasonable due to public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic but determined that termination was a disproportionate response to Thompson's refusal to get vaccinated. 

He concluded that a lesser form of discipline would have been more appropriate. In his ruling, Wright stated, "The Hospital’s discharge of the Griever lacked just cause." He ordered Thompson’s reinstatement with a 30-day disciplinary suspension in place of the termination but did not award any further compensation or make any orders regarding back pay.