To Local 258 IBEW Membership
Frequently Asked Questions -
B.C. Hydro’s COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate
POSTED FROM DOUG MCKAY, BUSINESS MANAGER/FINANCIAL SECRETARY, OCTOBER 20, 2021
The Union continues to field numerous questions and concerns about B.C. Hydro’s intended vaccine mandate. We thank all of you for expressing your support and expressing your concerns to the Union. I have met with Premier Horgan and B.C. Hydro and continue to advance our members’ interests, questions, and concerns.
While the Union is waiting for more concrete information on B.C. Hydro’s expected policy, at this time we want to provide you with guidance on the rights and obligations raised by a vaccine mandate, to the extent we are able to answer your questions at this time.
We encourage you to continue work safely, and to use your Union and the Collective Agreement grievance procedures to uphold your rights. Please do not hesitate to contact the Union should you have a specific question about your individual circumstances.
Where can I get more information on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines?
We are not medical experts or doctors, but we do encourage you to read reliable sources of information on COVID-19 and safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s website includes data on COVID-19, vaccine reports, and information about vaccine safety, and more.
B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Office of the Provincial Health Officer
We also encourage you to have ongoing conversations with your own doctor about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines.
Does a mandatory vaccination policy violate the Collective Agreement?
The details of B.C. Hydro’s vaccination mandate have not yet been provided to the Union. The Union will review B.C. Hydro’s policy for compliance with the Collective Agreement.
As well, unilateral employer policies must meet other requirements, such as being clear and unequivocal, and being reasonable. Labour arbitrators consider a number of factors to determine whether an employer policy in this context is reasonable, including but not limited to:
• Based on the scientific evidence available, what measures are actually needed and required to keep employees and others at the workplace safe?
• How intrusive is the employer policy into employee privacy and their bodily integrity? Are less intrusive measures likely to be effective?
• Does the policy make exceptions for employees with demonstrated characteristics protected by human rights legislation?
- Does the policy require employees to share personal information?
Does a mandatory vaccination policy violate my human rights?
Under the B.C. Human Rights Code, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of protected characteristics.
An employer policy on vaccination must include provisions for reasonable accommodation for those who cannot follow the employer’s requirement due to characteristics protected by human rights law. Under the Human Rights Code, people who cannot be vaccinated because of a Code-protected ground must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. The B.C. Human Rights Commissioner has said duty-bearers have a duty to accommodate such persons unless, for example, the accommodation would create health and safety risks for others or would be inordinately expensive.
An employee seeking the protection of human rights legislation and asking to be exempt from the employer’s policy must provide the employer with information about their protected characteristic and information about how that characteristic prevents them from being able to get fully vaccinated.
What about my rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Under the Charter, certain rights and freedoms are protected from interference by government. This includes freedom of religion; freedom of belief and opinion; to liberty and security of the person; and to equality.
These rights and freedoms are not absolute. Section 1 of the Charter states that Charter rights and freedoms are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
How will my personal information be protected?
Public and private organizations in B.C. have statutory legal obligations to safeguard personal information they collect, including your personal health information. This includes an obligation on organizations to ensure that any collection, use, or disclosure of your personal information be limited to the purpose for which the information was collected, and to protect your personal information by making reasonable security arrangements to prevent unauthorized access.
What steps does B.C. Hydro need to take to protect workers from COVID-19?
Employers have duties to take steps to ensure the health and safety of workers and others present at a workplace. This includes remedying any workplace conditions that are hazardous to the health or safety of the employer’s workers, including taking steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
With respect to mandatory vaccination polices, WorkSafeBC has been advising businesses and other employers that they may choose to implement their own staff-vaccination policies based on their own due diligence and that individual employers should seek legal advice when developing a mandatory vaccination policy.
What will happen if I want to get vaccinated, but I am unable to do so by my employer’s deadline?
If you want to get vaccinated and are taking steps to do so but will be unable to obtain your second dose by the deadline set by your employer, we urge you to document your vaccination efforts and inform your employer about why you are unable to meet the deadline.
Should your employer fail to give you more time to get your second dose, please report this and information about your individual circumstances to the Union.
What will happen to my employment if I have a medical condition preventing me from getting vaccinated?
The Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in employment based on a person’s disability. A person who has been advised by their doctor not to obtain a vaccination due to that person’s medical condition may have grounds for a discrimination claim if their disability is not reasonably accommodated by their employer. A “reasonable accommodation” means that an employer must accommodate an employee with a disability to the point of “undue hardship”.
If you have a medical condition preventing you from getting vaccinated and you are seeking an exemption from your employer’s policy, you must provide the employer with information setting the nature of your disability and why it prevents you from being vaccinated against COVID-19.
If your employer rejects the information you provide about your disability or does not attempt to accommodate a disability which prevents you from getting vaccinated, please report this and your individual circumstances to the Union.
What if my religious beliefs prevent me from getting vaccinated?
The B.C. Human Rights Code protects against discrimination in employment on the basis of religion.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has said that an objection (to wearing a mask) based on personal opinion, rather than based on a sincerely held religious belief, is not a belief protected by the Human Rights Code. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has also said that an ideological opposition to or distrust of the vaccine would not be enough to prove discrimination.
Additionally, the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner has taken the position that a person who chooses not to get vaccinated as a matter of personal preference does not have grounds for a human rights complaint against a duty-bearer (such as an employer) implementing a vaccination status policy.
If you are seeking an exemption from your employer’s policy on the ground of religious belief, you must provide your employer with information about how your sincerely held religious belief prevents you from getting vaccinated.
If the Employer rejects such information or fails to attempt to accommodate your sincerely held religious belief, please report this and information about your individual circumstances to the Union.
If I don’t get vaccinated, what will happen with my employment?
The details of B.C. Hydro’s policy and consequences for those who do not obtain two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine remain to be seen by the Union.
Should you be held out of service for failing to obtain two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, we ask that you report any such employer action to the Union immediately.