A public service board has granted an Ottawa bureaucrat the right to work in a different building from a loud and flatulent co-worker who swore, uttered odd noises and even washed his bare feet with vinegar in the office.
Line Emond, a data quality manager at the Parole Board of Canada, has been granted the right to a new workplace in a decision by the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board.
Emond filed a grievance claiming that the behaviour of her co-worker, identified only as Mr. X, made her ill.
Mr. X arrived in Emond's office in the fall of 2009 and Emond took sick leave in August, 2011, and was on disability leave until March, 2013.
At one point, Mr. X filed a grievance against Emond, which was upheld in part.
Emond complained that her employer had failed to deal with her grievance properly.
Other workers testified about Mr. X's strange behaviour, including making "bizarre noises, such as strange yawns," walking around the office barefoot and washing his feet with vinegar in front of others "who found it disgusting."
A lawyer for the government said it appeared the dispute was a personality conflict, not a matter of illness and incapacity.
A doctor testified that Emond demonstrated a high anxiety level about the co-worker and felt threatened.
The arbitration ruling said there was a clear clash.
"Counsel maintained that the evidence is abundantly clear about Mr. X's abusive behaviour and his negative and harmful effect on the grievor," the ruling said.
"For example, all the witnesses described him as being physically imposing and behaving strangely, inappropriately, and abusively in the workplace."
Linda Gobeil, the arbitrator, ruled that Emond should be moved to another building and ordered that she be reimbursed for salary and benefits lost during her a portion of her time on long-term disability.
"I find it hard to believe that a cubicle could not be found in Ottawa in which the grievor could work," Gobeil wrote.