In Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers / Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association v. Toronto Catholic District School Board, 2017 CanLII 37597 (ON LRB), the Ontario Labour Relations Board (the “OLRB”) found that a teacher’s work refusal on the day following a violent outburst by a five-year-old student was appropriate.

The school board argued that the teacher had no right to engage in the work refusal because she was not in imminent danger the following day when she refused the work. The OLRB disagreed, finding that teachers are entitled to refuse unsafe work in relation to violent students as long as they have reason to believe – from their own perspective – that the violence is likely to endanger themselves at the time of refusal or in the immediate future. In other words, teachers are not expected to wait for a further violent outburst in order to refuse work.

In the case at hand, the OLRB found that, despite the student’s age and size, the teacher was entitled to refuse work because the student’s history of violent outbursts created a genuine and reasonable fear for the teacher that the student would engage in further violence.