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Queen's University
 

Pannu

Facts

Pannu was a Sikh recaust operator who was dismissed by the employer, Skeena Cellulose, when he refused, on religious grounds, to shave his beard. As recaust operator, he was responsible for shutting down the recaust area in the event of a poisonous leak. To accomplish this task without losing consciousness, he would have to wear a self-contained assistive breathing device that formed a protective seal around his mouth and nose. Facial hair broke the protective seal provided by the apparatus, and was therefore prohibited. Pannu filed a complaint stating that the likelihood of a poisonous leak was remote and that the employer should have accommodated him by reassigning the safety duty to another employee.    [Workers' Compensation Board (No.2) (2000), 38 C.H.R.R., D/494, 2000 BCHRT 56 ]

Questions

  1. Is it reasonably necessary to require that the employee responsible for shutting down the recaust area be clean-shaven?
  2. Would accommodating Pannu by reassigning the safety duty to another employee have incurred undue hardship on the employer ?

Rulings

  1. Yes
  2. Yes

Reasoning

  1. The Tribunal found that it is reasonably necessary for the employee responsible for shutting down the recast area be clean-shaven for reasons of safety; that of the individual wearing the breathing device, and that of his co-workers working in the recaust area.
  2. The Tribunal found that there was a fairly high probability of poisonous gas leaks occurring in the recausting area. Accommodating Pannu by reassigning this duty to another worker, would have incurred undue hardship in two ways; it would have meant a significant shift of responsibility (disruption of the Collective Agreement)  to a worker with significantly less experience (unreasonably risk affecting the safety of all workers in the area).

Further information on Religious Dress: Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, s.7.1

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000