In Parmar v Tribe Management, a BC Supreme Court judge had to consider whether a mandatory vaccination policy was reasonable. This is the first decision in BC where a judge decided this question in a non-union setting.
The plaintiff, Ms. Parmar, was an accounting professional. The employer, Tribe Management, provided condominium management services. Its employees were required to regularly interact with strata council members, residents, and strata employees. In Ms. Parmar’s employment contract, she agreed to comply with all policies of Tribe Management, as amended from time to time.
In October 2021, Tribe Management implemented a mandatory vaccination policy, which required all employees to be vaccinated by November 24, 2021. For employees who chose, for personal reasons, not to be vaccinated, they were to be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. The policy included exemptions for employees who could not be vaccinated for religious or medical reasons.
Ms. Parmar refused to be vaccinated and she was placed on an unpaid leave of absence, effective on December 1, 2021. Ms. Parmar then resigned in late January and took the position that she had been constructively dismissed. Tribe Management argued that its vaccination policy was reasonable and Ms. Parmar resigned voluntarily from her employment.
The judge dismissed Ms. Parmar’s claim, finding that she resigned from her employment. She was not constructively dismissed. She was not entitled to any severance pay.
The judge concluded that Tribe Management’s vaccination policy was reasonable in the circumstances. Those circumstances included the state of the pandemic and the nature of Tribe Management’s business. Tribe Management had a health and safety obligation to protect their employees and the people they were interacting with. The trial judge reviewed the existing circumstances of COVID-19 and public health measures in reaching this decision. The trial judge also reviewed previous decisions relating to COVID-19 policies.
This is a supportive decision for BC employers who implemented a mandatory vaccination policy in 2021 and who may be involved in litigation with employees who refused to be vaccinated. However, each case needs to be considered in the circumstances of each workplace and each vaccination policy.