Office politics are not grounds for discrimination, according to a New Brunswick judge in a ruling on a recent complaint in the province.

Justice E. Thomas Christie of the Court of Queen’s Bench said issues of office politics are matters for human resource staff and should not be an issue for the province’s Human Rights Commission.

“To do so would be to open the floodgates to complaints between persons in the same workplace over issues associated with the operation of the enterprise,” he wrote in a recent decision.

Christie was asked to rule on the case of Richard Doucet, a former employee of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, who sought to have the court overturn a New Brunswick Human Rights Commission decision to dismiss a complaint against the union.

Doucet filed his original complaint in 2009, based on his age, mental disability, physical disability and political belief or activity in regard to his employment.

Read: OHRC policy addresses human rights issues related to mental health

In a 22-page decision, released in November, Christie says there had been a lot of tension in the executive office at the union and Doucet found himself out of a job after losing an election to become vice-president.

Doucet filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on numerous grounds, including political belief and activity.

“The issue is concerned with his interaction with other elected officials of the Respondent and does not involve ‘political belief of activity’ associated with a political party. In other words, the present complaint involves ‘office politics’,” Christie wrote.

In relaying the facts of the case, Christie wrote that Doucet ran for the position of vice-president of the union in 2006 but lost to Ervan Cronk, but later that year was elected as administrative vice-president – a rank lower than Cronk’s position.

He says Doucet made it clear he would challenge Cronk again in 2008 for the vice-president position.

Doucet was diagnosed with heart disease in early 2007 and was off the job for about 15 months. During that time he developed other health issues and had heart surgery.

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Christie said the working relationship between Doucet and Cronk deteriorated.

“I have no difficulty accepting that the relationship was strained at times and, given that Mr. Doucet has indicated an intention to again run against Mr. Cronk in 2008, there were significant tensions in the working relationship. ‘Office politics’ was a reality,” he wrote.

Doucet lost the election in 2008 and was not offered a new job.

Instead Doucet, 59 at the time, was forced to use six months of accumulated vacation and then given an unreduced pension.

Doucet filed a complaint with the commission, but it was dismissed. He called that unreasonable and said it should at least have gone to a board of inquiry.

However Christie ruled that the appropriate section of the New Brunswick Human Rights Act relates to activities involving a political party, not office politics.

He dismissed Doucet’s application and ordered him to pay $1,500 in costs for the union.

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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