Canadian Labour Reporter

June 19, 2017

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7 Canadian HR Reporter, a Thomson Reuters business 2017 CANADIAN LABOUR REPORTER NEWS but was exposed to assaults, in- mates who harmed themselves, hangings and a fire. Peterson left the provincial sys- tem to work for CSC in 2011, first working at another facility before moving to AIR after a use-of-force incident that caused anxiety and sleeplessness. Peterson didn't seek medical treatment for his issues, but started calling in sick from his depression, anxiety, and a back in- jury he suffered in a car accident. Peterson was told to bring in doctor's notes for all his absences and was referred to the employee assistance program, but he didn't go. He did some Internet research and concluded he had post-trau- matic stress disorder (PTSD), but a doctor he consulted didn't be- lieve so. Peterson also began trying marijuana to alleviate his symp- toms, against his doctor's advice. He found it helped so he bought seeds and planted them on a neighbour's property without in- forming the neighbour. On Feb. 24, 2014, Miramichi police executed a search warrant of Peterson's house. They found dried marijuana throughout the house, totalling 4.22 kilograms of the drug. They also found grow-op equipment such as light ballasts, large fans, metal alloy lightbulbs, and potting soil, along with strings to support the plants hanging from the basement ceiling. Police also found several large hockey bags, a common method of trans- porting marijuana from grow- ops. There were also loose marijua- na plant leaves and evidence of at- tempts to produce cannabis resin in the house, along with seven un- secured weapons. Peterson was uncooperative with police and refused to reveal how many firearms he had in the house and where. He admitted to smoking marijuana often but had no prescription for it. Peterson was arrested and re- leased with conditions. The arrest was covered in the local newspaper, which stated Peterson was a corrections offi- cer and published photographs of seized marijuana in buckets with labels indicating they were being shipped to AIR. AIR's assistant warden was in- formed by police of Peterson's ar- rest — Peterson never told CSC of the arrest himself — and informed the acting warden. They put Pe- terson on paid leave for several shifts while deciding what to do, then the employer suspended Pe- terson without pay on March 7, 2014, while a disciplinary investi- gation was conducted. CSC's investigation included interviews of the arresting of- ficers, Peterson, and some of Pe- terson's co-workers. Peterson was told several times the investiga- tion was separate from any crimi- nal investigation, but Peterson said little on his lawyer's advice. He said he suffered from PTSD and chronic back pain, but provid- ed no information other than say- ing he had seen a psychiatrist. CSC didn't search for more in- formation as it felt Peterson was obligated to provide it to support his claims. When the investigation was completed, Peterson was given a draft copy but refused to acknowl- edge it. His criminal trial was dragging on and CSC was finding it harder to stay in touch with Peterson, so it decided to terminate his em- ployment on Jan. 7, 2015. The termination letter stated that the investigation determined Peterson's actions were inconsis- tent with his role as a peace officer. His admitted drug use, improper- ly stored firearms, and dishonesty violated CSC's standards of pro- fessional conduct, the value and ethics code for the public sector, and the standards of conduct out- lined in the collective agreement between the Treasury Board and the Union of Canadian Correc- tional Officers. It also said CSC couldn't trust him working with inmates with similar offences who were aware of the arrest and media coverage of the arrest and trial damaged CSC's reputation and public trust. Peterson grieved the dismissal, claiming his PTSD and other mental issues weren't given con- sideration in CSC's decision to terminate. He also pointed to his clean disciplinary record and said CSC should have looked at possible po- sitions where he could work with- out needing a firearm or direct contact with inmates. Adjudicator Margaret Shan- non noted that while Peterson had a "lengthy career in the world of corrections," he had only been an employee of CSC for less than four years, from 2011 to early 2015. Peterson's arrest was a serious matter, particularly since the nature of the charges — drugs and fire- arms — related directly to his cor- rectional officer duties, where he dealt with individuals with similar charges and which required a high level of trust and responsibility. Shannon found that CSC's in- vestigation was a proper one and involved interviews with all perti- nent people such as the police and co-workers. If the investigation didn't cover all the bases, it was because of Peterson's refusal to co-operate. While it was his right to not an- swer questions because of the sepa- rate criminal matter — as his law- yer advised him — it gave CSC less to work with when making its disci- plinary decision, said Shannon. Shannon also found that CSC was unaware of any medical is- sues, as Peterson only briefly mentioned potential mental health issues but didn't provide any further information — and he hadn't actually been diagnosed with PTSD, as it was a self-diagno- sis off the Internet while his doc- tor disagreed. In addition, Peterson was fully aware that cultivating marijuana was illegal and his job would be at risk if he was caught. The fact he tried to hide what he was do- ing by secretly planting marijuana on a neighbour's property dem- onstrated he knew the deal, said Shannon. Shannon also found Peterson hadn't shown any remorse and took no steps to acquire marijuana legally — which he could have if he needed it for medical purposes. Combined with the negative me- dia spotlight the incident brought on CSC, it was serious enough that demotion or discipline wouldn't do the trick. CSC had just cause for dismiss- al, according to Shannon. "Through his actions, (Peter- son) made himself unsuitable to be a (correctional officer) … (Peter- son) was well aware of the implica- tions of his illegal activities if they were discovered," said Shannon. "His attempts to disguise them is proof of this and brings not only his suitability to be a (correctional officer) into question but clearly indicates that the employer's trust in him was not warranted, which renders the continued employ- ment relationship untenable." For more information see: Peterson v. Deputy Head (Correc- tional Service of Canada), 2017 CarswellNat 1730 (Can. Pub. Ser- vice Lab. Rel. Bd.). < Drug bust pg. 1 PTSD diagnosis from Internet, not doctor: Adjudicator Photo: Canna Obscura (Shutterstock)

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