The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal recently confirmed that courts do not have jurisdiction over employment related actions governed by the dispute resolution process in the federal Public Service Staff Relations Act.
A Canadian Coast Guard captain claimed that he was constructively dismissed because he was forced to leave his job after filing a series of unsuccessful harassment complaints against his superiors. The trial judge dismissed his claim on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction because the Act established an exclusive dispute resolution process governing his employment.
The captain appealed, arguing that the Act did not provide an effective remedy for his complaint because some parts of his claim for constructive dismissal could not be decided under it. In dismissing his appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the Act could be effective even if it did not provide the same remedies for constructive dismissal as the common law. The determinative factor was whether the process available under the statute provided effective redress for the problem he raised.
This case demonstrates the importance of statutory regimes for the resolution of employment disputes . Where Parliament or a legislature enacts rules for deciding workplace disagreements, courts may refuse jurisdiction to enforce employees’ common law rights.
(Click here for link to Decision)