The Collective agreement at Laurentian University allows for faculty members to be absent from work due to sickness for up to six months. Members on paid sick leave must provide the university with a doctor’s certificate stating that they cannot work and providing a return date. The employer has the right to request more detailed information, but only if members request accommodation for a disability or if they exceed the predicted return date. The University also has the right to request an independent medical assessment by a physician of its choosing.
When the University received, from a number of members, medical certificates which provided very vague return dates (such as “time indefinite” or “until further notice”) it sent out letters requesting the following information:
A number of members filed grievances and the Union brought forward a policy grievance, which is the subject of this case. The Union argued that the employer was essentially asking its members for a second medical certificate outside the circumstances prescribed by the collective agreement. The University argued that they were justified in asking for supplementary information because it was exercising rights and responsibilities that extended beyond the sick leave clauses into other clauses (such as management rights, discrimination and health and safety clauses).
“The collective agreement here contains a comprehensive process to deal with sick leave. This specific language cannot be sidestepped in the way the employer has attempted to do here. Nor is the employer assisted by the general provisions in other parts of the collective agreement, including the management rights clause, health and safety language, the non-discrimination clause or general provisions about absences, which cannot override the specific provisions related to sick leave” (28)