COVID-19: Toronto will fire unvaccinated staffers for cause


Toronto staffers who don’t get the jab by mid-December will be fired for cause, city officials announced today.

In a press release sent out on Wednesday afternoon, the city clarified what will happen to active staffers who opt not to comply with its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

Starting the week of November 1, staff who do not provide proof of having received two vaccine doses will be suspended for six weeks without pay. They can return to work sooner if they provide proof of the receiving two shots.

Once the six weeks expires on December 13, any staffers who do not provide proof of full vaccination will be fired for cause “as they will have chosen not to comply with the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy,” the city said.

In Ontario, an employee who is terminated for cause is not entitled to reasonable notice, statutory termination pay or statutory severance. 

To date, 26,138 Toronto Public Service staffers are fully vaccinated – or 89 per cent of staff who disclosed their COVID-19 vaccination status, the city said. Five per cent of those who disclosed are partially vaccinated and two per cent opted not to disclose their status.

City staff were required to disclose their status by September 17 and be partially vaccinated by September 30 per the mandatory vaccination policy. In total, 95 per cent of active staff have completed the vaccination disclosure form.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated staffers who provide proof of a first shot by October 15 are being given to November 15 to get their second shot. Before then, city officials say they are focusing on “educating staff and encouraging them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

“The City will continue to comply with its human rights obligations, and employees who are not able to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine under a protected ground set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code will be entitled to accommodation,” reads the press release.

“While the number of staff not fully vaccinated is low, divisions have already begun to consider plans to mitigate any service or staffing impacts resulting from this policy enforcement.”

In response to the city’s notice, the union representing city indoor workers CUPE 416 said on Wednesday it had filed a policy grievance “alleging the application of the policy is unreasonable and violates provisions of the collective agreement.”

Employment lawyers have questioned whether a termination for refusing to follow a mandatory vaccination policy would meet the “for cause” threshold.

“It is important to note that Ontario sets a high bar for termination with cause,” a blog post by the employment law firm Whitten & Lublin stated in July. “As such, many employment lawyers have the opinion that refusing to be vaccinated would likely not meet the threshold required for a termination for cause.”

The city originally announced the mandatory vaccination policy in August but did not spell out a timeline for potential dismissals for staff that do not adhere.

Across the city, more than 86 per cent of eligible Toronto residents 12 and up have had one shot of COVID-19 vaccine and 81 per cent are fully vaccinated.

October 7, 2021: This story was updated with a statement from CUPE 416.




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