The City of Calgary says fewer than five employees have been terminated for non-compliance with its employee vaccination policy.
The employee vaccination policy was suspended on 7 March this year. The city said 98 percent of its employees complied with that policy as of March. That number did not include the Calgary Police Service.
The policy was introduced during the fall of 2021 and included an exemption for those who had medical or religious beliefs that prevented vaccination. This applied to all workers, regardless of where they physically worked.
According to the city, a small number of employees chose to participate in the rapid testing program, which allowed anyone who had not been vaccinated to continue working.
For a time, the city intended to make those employees pay for their own rapid tests. However, the city now says it was able to obtain tests for free from the province.
Those who refused to undergo the regular tests faced being placed on leave or termination.
In an email, the city confirmed that fewer than five employees were terminated and not rehired for not following the policy. The email said the terminations did not affect service delivery.
Dylan Snowdon, a partner and co-chair of the Employment Practice Group at Carbert Waite LLP, said vaccination policies have led to both civil claims and human rights claims.
He said that in 2021 a series of these claims were made, and this year we are seeing more and more decisions all the time.
“I don’t think there’s a single answer to say, yes, these are all acceptable policies, or no, none of these policies are okay,” Snowdon said. “Although the majority of courts and arbitrators have generally found those mandatory vaccination policies to be enforceable.”
He said courts must weigh individual rights against the wider occupational health and safety responsibilities employers have to protect their workers and the public.
“For one employer, that assessment may be different from another, depending on what the circumstances are,” Snowdon said. “For example, a worker who worked at home and does not interact with the public involved as part of their work, versus a medical professional who works in hospitals. These are very different situations.”
He said courts also look at the cases based on the best health data available at the time, rather than what we know now.
“Was that decision reasonable in the circumstances with the information available at the time?” he said.