Employees increasingly using health and safety legislation to challenge unpopular policies

The Toronto Police Association (the union for Toronto police officers) has lost its safety‐based challenge to the requirement that police officers wear badges that display their first initial and last name.

In 2006, the Toronto Police Service introduced a mandatory requirement that while in uniform, officers wear a name badge. The Police Association asked a Ministry of Labour inspector to order the Police Service to drop the requirement. The inspector refused to grant the order, and the Police Association appealed to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The Police Association claimed that criminals and others could use the badge information to track down officers and harass or harm them and their families.

The OLRB found that there were a number of ways, apart from the name tags, that members of the public could obtain officers’ names – including by calling the police detachment and giving the officer’s badge number.

Although the OLRB concluded that organized crime and motorcycle gangs do maintain databanks containing personal information on police officers, there was no evidence that that information had been used to harm police officers. The Police Association had not proven that the use of the name tag increased the risk to police officers from organized crime or gangs.

In the result, the Police Association had not proven any material increase in risk from the use of the name tags. As such, the inspector’s refusal to order the Police Association to change its name tag policy was upheld.

This dispute illustrates how employees can use health and safety legislation to attempt to strike down unpopular policy decisions of their employer.

Toronto Police Association v. Toronto Police Services Board (Ontario Labour Relations Board):

http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onlrb/doc/2010/2010canlii76072/2010canlii76072.pdf