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Civil claim struck down due to critical oversight in legal jurisdiction

July 11, 2024

Civil claim struck down due to critical oversight in legal jurisdiction

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Lucy Chestacow was employed as a Resident Care Attendant for Mount St. Hospital of Marie Esther Society (the “Hospital”) for over 20 years. Throughout her employment, Ms. Chestacow was a member of the Hospital Employees’ Union (the “HEU”).

Ms. Chestacow filed a civil claim against the Hospital claiming that the conduct of some managerial employees of the Hospital created an environment that she could not tolerate, forcing her to quit. She also alleged that this conduct caused mental injuries and loss, and that the Hospital failed to accommodate her. The Hospital brought an application to strike Ms. Chestacow’s claims, citing that the court lacked jurisdiction, as such claims were under the sole jurisdiction of the HEU and WorkSafeBC (“WCB”).

The Court agreed with the employer’s position, citing that the decision had nothing to do with the merits of Ms. Chestacow’s dispute, but rather, that the “essential nature” of her dispute was not within the jurisdiction of a civil action. Specifically, the Court found:

  1. That a dispute with the Hospital about whether the terms of her employment were violated had to be addressed through the grievance and arbitration procedure with the HEU, as HEU had the exclusive right and obligation to represent Ms. Chestacow in this process.
  2. That Ms. Chestacow’s claims of mental injuries occurring at work were within the exclusive jurisdiction of WCB and the Worker’s Compensation Appeal Tribunal, pursuant to s. 127 of the Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 2019, c. 1.
  3. That a dispute with the HEU about how it represented her was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the British Columbia Labour Relations Board under ss. 12 and 13 of the Labour Relations Code, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 244.

This decision brings important considerations for unionized employees about how to seek assistance with any employment-related issues, and to tread carefully – and, importantly, seek legal advice – before bringing any civil claims involving unionized workplace issues.”

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