Toronto delivery driver Tim Conlon has had his Employment Insurance (EI) benefits reinstated by a federal tribunal after being fired for declining to show proof of vaccination, according to Blacklock’s Reporter. 

According to Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) lawyer Marty Moore, the Social Security Tribunal’s judgment was the first successful appeal by a Canadian who was denied unemployment benefits because of their medical status.

“People lose their jobs all the time,” said Moore. “People don’t expect to be denied Employment Insurance benefits they paid into for years.”

“In my view what we’re seeing is a crack developing in what has been categorical discrimination against Canadians who are not vaccinated.”

In its ruling, the tribunal found that “claimants who lose their job because of misconduct or voluntarily leave their employment without just cause are not entitled to receive Employment Insurance benefits.”

However, in Conlon’s case, the tribunal ruled in his favour because “he had only been given two days to be vaccinated for Covid-19 or he was told he would have to quit.” 

“The employer may have the authority to develop and impose policies at the workplace … however employees ought to be given a chance to understand the policy, to know what is required, to have an opportunity to review or ask questions and be given enough time to comply,” the tribunal ruled.

Conlon was fired on July 9, 2021 and was denied his EI benefits after concluding he was fired for workplace misconduct. The Tribunal ruled that Conlon was a longtime employee with a clean record whose conduct “was not wilful, conscious or deliberate.”

The JCCF says it has been contacted by “hundreds of people” who were denied EI benefits after being dismissed. 

“I would venture to say there are thousands, tens of thousands, in this same circumstance,” said Moore.

In previous cases, the tribunal upheld the denial of EI benefits to employees fired for challenging workplace vaccine mandates.

In December, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough warned Canadians that unvaccinated individuals could be denied federal benefits.

“As long as the collective public health of Canadians is jeopardized, and our economy is thereby threatened, we’re going to have to keep public health policy top of mind in our employment and labour and economic decision making,” Qualtrough said.

“And I don’t know how long that will be.”

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Harrison Faulkner is producer and journalist for True North based in Toronto.

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