Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination lawsuit dismissed in British Columbia

A claim by a British Columbia accountant who sued her employer over a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is denied.

The civil lawsuit of Deepk Parmar against Tribe Management Inc. That the company “constructively rejected” it when it granted it three months of unpaid leave for failing to comply with the policy when it was implemented in late November 2021.

in A decision was made last weekBritish Columbia Supreme Court Justice Heather McNaughton concluded that Parmar’s leave did not amount to constructive dismissal.

Instead, the judge concluded that Tribe’s decision to implement the mandatory vaccination policy was a “reasonable and lawful response to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic based on the information that was available to it at the time.”

Politics

Per the court ruling, Tribe is a publicly traded property management firm that acquired Gateway Property Management in the summer of 2021. Parmar has worked at Gateway since 2003, working her way up to a senior management position in the accounting department, which she continued to hold when Tribe acquired company.

Before and after the acquisition, McNaughton wrote, Parmar was a valued employee and there were no issues with her job performance.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, Parmar began working from home, although the nature of her job required being in the office periodically to sign checks and fulfill other duties, according to the court ruling.

“It is not disputed that Mrs. Parmar carefully observed or exceeded all requirements of public health while in the Tribe’s office,” McNaughton wrote.

As the pandemic developed and vaccines became more widely available, the ruling notes, Tribe asked workers to disclose their vaccination status and found that 84 percent of its 200-plus employees have been vaccinated.

“(Tribal managers) deemed the 16 percent who did not receive vaccination (35 employees out of 220) an unacceptably high number given the risks of COVID-19 as understood and presented by public health and the media,” MacNaughton wrote.

The company announced a mandatory vaccination policy in October 2021. By the November 24, 2021 deadline, Parmar and only one employee remained unvaccinated, according to the ruling.

Objections

The tribe’s mandatory vaccination policy allowed exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but Parmar did not claim either, according to McNaughton’s decision.

Instead, in the lead up to the policy being implemented, Parmar spoke with supervisors to inquire whether vaccination would be an “employment condition.” She expressed concern about what McNaughton described as “severe health complications” that she had watched her family members develop after receiving their vaccinations.

Specifically, according to the decision, Parmar’s father had a severe headache, “brain fog, confusion, seizure-like episodes, shortness of breath, and general weakness making it difficult to get out of bed.” Her aunt had an “endometriotic episode” and an anonymous acquaintance “had numbness in her legs and was unable to walk for more than a week” after the vaccination.

MacNaughton noted that no evidence has been presented linking these symptoms to COVID-19 vaccines. However, Parmar believes there could be a causal relationship and “was reluctant to receive the vaccination for fear of negative side effects.”

The tribe advised the Parmar that there would be no exceptions to the mandatory vaccination policy, other than those for religious or medical reasons. The company has refused to allow Parmar to work remotely most of the time and run quick tests whenever she has to go to the office, according to the ruling.

Parmar was placed on unpaid leave on November 24, 2021, and her connection to the firm quickly gave way to networking between lawyers.

“On January 15, 2022, the tribe’s attorney wrote to Mrs. Parmar’s lawyer indicating that she would remain on leave as long as she was not vaccinated, but that tribe had expected that she would return to work immediately once she had been vaccinated or (the policy) was canceled or relaxed,” she wrote. McNaughton in her decision.

On January 26, the same day she filed a lawsuit alleging unfair dismissal, Parmar resigned from the tribe, according to the ruling.

Conclusion

Parmar’s lawsuit alleged that her employer’s compulsory vaccination policy was unreasonable because it did not accommodate employees who were able to work from home “either wholly or wholly,” McNaughton wrote.

“The focus is on whether the tribe had bona fide commercial reasons, including safety reasons, for (the mandatory vaccination policy) and for giving Mrs. Parmar unpaid leave for not complying with it,” the judge wrote. “The issue is not whether the MVP is an ideal policy, but whether it is a reasonable approach when implemented, given the uncertainties presented by the pandemic then.”

After discussing what was known about COVID-19 at the time the policy was considered and implemented, MacNaughton concluded that the policy was reasonable.

She cited similar policies that were in place for federal and provincial public service workers at the time, as well as the BC Vaccine Card Program, which requires proof of vaccination to participate in many activities in the county.

“I agree that it is unusual for an employer to enact a workplace policy that affects an employee’s physical safety, but in the context of the extraordinary health challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, such policies are reasonable,” McNaughton concluded.

“They do not force the employee to be vaccinated. What they are mandating is a choice between receiving the vaccination, continuing to earn income, or not being vaccinated, and losing their income. Ms. Parmar made her choice based on what appears to have been speculative information about the potential risks.”

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