Employees fired over COVID-19 outbreak at ski resort

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In the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff at Big White Ski Resort, several employees have been terminated. The ski resort claims employees were not adhering to social responsibility contracts. Is this reason enough to terminate an employee? Is COVID-19 setting a new precedent for what employers can terminate employees for?

A Vancouver employment lawyer and associate at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joined the Jill Bennett show on 980 CKNW to answer these questions and more.

What They Discussed

Is there anything that is questionable or can be challenged with the termination of the ski resort employees?

It’s implied heavily that the employees were terminated for cause. In order to fire employees for cause, the misconduct has to be serious. If, like in this particular situation, employees are lying to their employers, it can qualify for termination. It is also important to question whether or not employees were aware they had COVID-19 or if they were asymptomatic.

Are employers allowed to have limitations or oversight in regards to employees when they are not at work?

Employers do have an obligation to follow health and safety measures however they cannot mandate what employees do outside of the workplace and use the conduct for a for-cause termination.

If an employer is providing housing for employees, are they also responsible for providing space to isolate?

A best practice for employers would also entail providing space for employees who potentially have COVID-19 to isolate so that employees can properly follow the health and safety protocols.

Were the social responsibility contract policies specific enough to warrant termination if the policies were


For an employee who is deliberately breaking social distancing policies or not wearing a mask, there could be a system of progression in order to terminate an employee for cause.

Should the ski resort have made employees responsible for reporting staff who were not following protocol?

There are several possible issues with giving the responsibility to employees to report other co-workers breaking health and safety protocols. Employees could improperly police other employees who might not have COVID-19 but a possible illness, which could affect their employment.

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