Lengthy arbitration finally concludes, but wrongfully fired man is far from satisfied
More than five years after being appointed as arbitrator in a wrongful dismissal case, Maureen Saltman has finally released her decision and reasons.
June 23, 2015
By Marco Chown Oved
It was a day for which Ajay Misra had waited more than six years.
Last week, the city budget analyst, who was wrongfully fired from his job in 2009, received his arbitrator’s final decision and reasons for reinstatement.
After a lengthy mediation and complex arbitration without result, Misra took matters into his own hands last year and began agitating for action. He wrote to the arbitrator, Maureen Saltman, got the Minister of Labour involved and even complained to the Arbitrator’s Association - prompting Saltman to resign from the organization. He received multiple assurances that reasons were forthcoming. Deadlines came and went.
But after such a long wait, the 240-page document that arrived Thursday was only a bittersweet victory for Misra. In it, Saltman dismissed all his grievances but one, and refused him any back pay.
“It’s progress, but I was hoping to some extent I would be vindicated,” Misra said. “It is tantamount to a five-year suspension with no pay.”
With the reasons in hand, Misra will be able to file a legal appeal for back pay. But the lengthy battle thus far shows how labour arbitration, which was set up to be a rapid and inexpensive alternative to litigation, can end up being slower and more cumbersome than the courts - where he says he will end up seeking redress anyway Saltman’s lawyer, Gavin Tighe, told the Star she “has delivered a fair, reasoned and unbiased decision based on the evidence led in the arbitration proceeding.”
“There has been absolutely no prejudice whatsoever to the grievor as a result of any time taken to render these reasons,” Tighe wrote in an email.
According to the decision, Misra was dismissed without just cause after a meeting with his supervisor where she accused him of chronic lateness. Calling the allegation “stupid,” Misra allegedly threatened to “break” his supervisor as he had her predecessors. He then refused to leave the meeting, after being asked to do so repeatedly.
While the threat to “break” the supervisor “fell short of providing just cause” for dismissal, wrote Saltman, Misra’s misleading conduct during the arbitration “is proper basis for the denial of compensation.”
“Not only does his evidence not accord with the preponderance of probabilities; but, as noted throughout this award, it is riddled with half-truths, inconsistencies, improbabilities and skilful manipulation of the facts,” Saltman ruled.
Misra denies that he was anything but truthful and contests Saltman’s ruling.
Now that he has the reasons in hand, Misra plans to immediately appeal for the back pay.
“I have closure in that I can now take this to the next step, but I’ve already lost six years of my life,” he said. “The battle drives on.”
April 2009: Misra is fired
June 2010: Saltman appointed as arbitrator
October 2010: A complicated arbitration hearing with multiple grievances starts
July 2012: Hearings wrap up
June 2014: Misra is reinstated via two paragraph email. No back pay awarded
July 2014: Misra’s lawyers write to the Ministry of Labour complaining about the delay in issuing reasons
September 2014: Saltman commits to issuing reasons by October 31st
October 2014: Saltman’s self-imposed deadline expires
February 2015: Misra complains about the delay to the Ontario Labour-Management Arbitrators’ Association
February 2015: Misra’s union lawyers apply for a divisional court order to compel Saltman to issue her outstanding decisions and reasons
March 2015: Saltman resigns from the Association without responding to the complaint
May 2015: Saltman responds to the divisional court lawsuit, promises to issue reasons
June 2015: Saltman issues 240 pages of reasons