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He refused the vaccine: fired and without EI benefits

TORONTO – He refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and to undergo antigen testing for the virus and has been fired from his job in some hospitals in the GTA. Then he was also denied unemployment benefits, because he was “fired for misconduct”. It was useless for him to challenge this decision, because the Federal Court ruled against him, stating that the reason for his dismissal met the definition of “misconduct” of the EI (Employment Insurance) law. 

This is the story of Anthony Cecchetto, a (now “ex”) employee of Lakeridge Health that runs several hospitals around Toronto. But he is only one of many. Dozens of Canadian workers have in fact been fired for refusing to get vaccinated, have appealed decisions to deny their claims for EI benefits and, in the vast majority of cases, have lost.

Cecchetto has always maintained that his rights had been violated on the basis of his medical choices, the interference with his physical integrity and the fact that he had refused consent for medical treatment. He also said that Lakeridge Health had not adequately explained the disciplinary consequences of its anti-Covid policy. But EI rules say someone fired “for misconduct” can’t get benefits. And the Federal Court only had to decide whether Cecchetto was fired after he intentionally violated his employer’s rules, putting all other matters outside its jurisdiction.

There are many cases that have seen individual rights and anti-Covid rules conflict. Where unions have tried to completely overturn the mandatory nature of vaccines, they have inevitably lost, especially in sensitive workplaces and in presence.

But there have also been some exceptions, such as last year’s case of an electrical utility that could not reasonably require employees who worked from home to be vaccinated instead of interacting in person with other workers or the public: in that case, the workers prevailed.

Then, there is the paradox today, triggered by the elimination – in many cases – of compulsory vaccination: shouldn’t workers fired for lack of vaccination, at this point, be reinstated?

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya from Unsplash

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