A B.C. arbitrator has decided that a grievor is not entitled to anonymity in the arbitration process and published awards, except in special circumstances.
In two recent B.C. arbitrations, the union argued that grievors’ names should be removed from arbitration decisions, in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In both cases, the union relied on the privacy legislation to argue that grievors must consent to the publication of their name in an arbitration award. In the alternative, if the privacy legislation did not apply, the union asserted that an arbitrator still has residual discretion to keep a grievor’s name private.
In the decision of Husband Food Ventures, the arbitrator concluded that, as the decisions of labour arbitrators are not expressly addressed by the privacy legislation, the discretionary authority of the arbitrator includes the decision of whether or not to include the grievor’s name. Where anonymity is requested, consideration is to be given to the facts of the case and the merits of the positions of the parties.
The arbitrator went on to hold that, in general, the custom of labour arbitrators is to identify and name the grievor in an award. While there are cases involving exceptional circumstances, such as the need to protect medical information, in the usual course grievors should not remain anonymous. The arbitrator held that special circumstances must exist in order to justify grievor anonymity and the onus is on the union to justify the need for anonymity in a particular case.
This is a positive development for employers, as the decision maintains the transparency and honesty that is integral to the grievance and arbitration process. It is expected the union will apply for review of the above-noted arbitration award by the BC Labour Relations Board.
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