Life / Health

Drunk driver gets hospital job back after missing work because of jail term

FREDERICTON — A New Brunswick hospital has been ordered to re-hire a lab employee who was fired after he didn't go to work for more than a month.

That's because the employee, Paul Lynch, was in jail for his seventh drunk-driving-related conviction.

Labour adjudicator John McEvoy said the 2015 firing was improper — Lynch did not know he was going to be jailed, and was unable to contact his bosses to tell them why he stopped going to work.

Further, said McEvoy, Lynch was fired by registered mail sent to his home, even though the hospital was aware of rumours Lynch had been jailed.

"Had the rumour been that Lynch was in hospital, one wonders if the employer's response would have been the same," McEvoy wrote in a recent decision.

Lynch had worked for 12 years at the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, sterilizing the secure lab and ensuring medical samples and tests were not contaminated. He had been disciplined previously for having alcohol on the job, and for unauthorized leave.

On Nov. 11, 2015, he hit a sign on a highway off-ramp, and left the scene. 

He says he told a co-worker Nov. 12 about a court appearance the following day, and joked if he didn't show up for work "it will be because I'm in jail."

He never returned to work.

He pleaded guilty the next day to having care and control of a vehicle while impaired. Because of his prior convictions, he was remanded pending sentencing, and later sentenced to six months in jail.

Lynch said he never had a chance to use a phone to contact his employer, and that no one came to his hearing who could have made the call for him.

In his absence, the hospital sent him two registered letters — one asking for an explanation, and the second a month later firing him. 

"The employer has failed to prove just cause for termination," McEvoy said in his ruling. "It would have been relatively easy for the employer to communicate with Lynch once the rumours of his arrest were known."

McEvoy ordered Lynch reinstated, and noted the hospital must give him an "appropriate orientation period to familiarize himself once again with his duties."

McEvoy said inmates should have the right to contact their employers when held in custody.

"No one who is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for a limited term in New Brunswick should face the Kafka-like situation faced by Lynch in respect of his inability to contact his employer. Here, citizens taken into custody by police and Corrections staff do not seemingly 'disappear' as did Lynch," said McEvoy.

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