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Labour board upholds suspension of public servant who claimed sticky note was harassment

A public servant, who believed a sticky note left on his desk was harassment and reacted with anger, has had his one-day suspension upheld in a ruling released this week.

As reported by the Ottawa Citizen, Jean-Pierre Pelchat was a Statistics Canada agronomist in 2016 when his supervisor Kimberly Boyuk left a sticky note on his computer monitor that said “Come see me right away. Kim.”

The note was left on Pelchat’s computer monitor after Boyuk sent an e-mail to ask him to recall a previous e-mail that constituted a security breach. She thought if he didn’t answer her e-mail, he might see the note first.

Boyuk told the labour relations board that Pelchat entered her office in the afternoon and was shaking the blue sticky note that she had left on his desk.  Pelchat told his supervisor that “this is harassment, and I don’t appreciate being treated this way,” according to Boyuk.

She said that she asked Pelchat to sit down, but he kept interrupting her as she tried to explain the situation. Before leaving she said he made “a disdainful hand gesture,” adding that he was loud and threatening throughout the entire conversation.

She said she was left shaking and unable to comprehend the source of such rage.

Pelchat emailed Boyuk, saying that he felt harassed by her actions and then she emailed her own manager to share Pelchat’s complaint and report that he had been “verbally violent” in her office.

As workplace investigation on the incident was launched the next day.

Pelchat told the investigator that he spoke calmly and quietly to Boyuk about the aggressive sticky note. He also said that he wasn’t threatening.

Two women who sat near Boyuk’s office said they heard nothing unusual on the day in question.

The director of Statistics Canada’s standards division gave Pelchat a one-day suspension. She said she felt Boyuk’s version of events were more credible.

Pelchat took his case to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, arguing that the discipline was unfair, malicious, and that the investigation into the situation was flawed because it lacked independence. He retired three months after the incident in 2016.

The ruling found that the entire evidence favoured Boyuk’s version of events. As a result, the one-day suspension imposed on Pelchat was upheld.