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Employees Under Attack! Jegou Helps Employers with Just Cause
Jegou v Canadian Natural Resources Limited, 2021 ABQB 401 is a new Alberta case which found just cause for dismissal of an on-site paramedic who had worked for CNRL for about 8 years when he handled a stroke incident poorly.
This case is important because it involves a finding of just cause where there is a single-incident of very poor work performance.
Facts in Jegou
Mr. Jegou was an experienced paramedic. He was required to follow guidelines dealing with many different medical situations, including strokes.
The incident in question involved a worker who was displaying symptoms of having possibly had a stroke. The guidelines the paramedic was supposed to follow were clear that in such cases, the patient was to be stabilized and then taken for “rapid transport to stroke centre”.
Instead of taking the patient directly to the hospital, Mr. Jegou took the patient to the patient’s clinic first. His reasoning was that he thought there might be some medical history there that could be useful. Mr. Jegou testified that the stop at this clinic was intended to be a quick one, but it ended up taking 32 minutes and the court concluded that he must have intended to leave the patient there for at least a period of time. The other CNRL employees who had assessed this patient along with Mr. Jegou was opposed to the clinic trip and testified that no possible benefit could have been gained from it. Ultimately, the patient got to the hospital within a few hours and no harm came from the delay.
Argument / Conclusion in Jegou
CNRL terminated Mr. Jegou’s employment, alleging just cause on the basis that Mr. Jegou did not follow the guidelines, and harm could have resulted. Mr. Jegou argued that this was ultimately an error of judgement, and no harm did in fact result.
The court found that CNRL had just cause to terminate Mr. Jegou, reasoning as follows:
 It was not an error of judgment. That implies at least arguable alternatives. This was a knowing breach of a clear, black-and-white protocol: stroke victims are to be immediately taken by rapid transport to the nearest hospital. A paramedic is not at liberty to exercise his own judgment on whether some other course may be followed because nothing can be done for the patient anyway.
 The fact that no harm may have been done to the patient does not assist Mr. Jegou’s position. He chose to ignore a simple requirement on how to deal with a patient in an emergency, possibly life-threatening condition. According to some evidence, this could make a difference in some cases. […]
 […] In cases of this nature, it is the possibility of serious harm that is important […]
 This was not, as Mr. Jegou argues, one case of poor judgment. It was a dereliction of his duties […]
My Take on Jegou
Employers often try to rely on guidelines or policies to justify termination for just cause. Employers are often unsuccessful with this position for various reasons, especially where it involves a single incident where no actual harm resulted, like in the Jegou case.
However, Jegou does reinforce the fact that a single incident of seriously poor judgment could result in just cause where the potential for harm is really high. It is hard to think of higher stakes than the severe potential complications of treating a stroke too slowly, which would include serious permanent damage or even death.
Bow River Law
Bow River Law is a brand-new firm, but our lawyers are not. We are knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in employment law, human rights, and labour law in Alberta.
If you are an employee who has been accused of misconduct or terminated for “just cause”, it is critical that you speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible, and certainly before signing anything.
If you are an employer who has to decide what to do about misconduct, let us help you carry out your obligations while protecting your legal and financial interests.
The Jegou case can be found at the following link on CanLii: https://www.canlii.org/en/ab/abqb/doc/2021/2021abqb401/2021abqb401.html?autocompleteStr=2021%20ABQB%20401&autocompletePos=1