Jean-Pierre Pelchat was a Statistics Canada agronomist when his supervisor, Kimberly Boyuk, left a note on his monitor that read: ‘Come see me right away. Kim’

A public servant who responded angrily to a Post-it note left on his computer by a manager has had his one-day suspension upheld by the federal labour relations board.

Jean-Pierre Pelchat was a Statistics Canada agronomist when his supervisor, Kimberly Boyuk, left a blue sticky note on his computer monitor that read: “Come see me right away. Kim.”

Earlier that day, April 25, 2016, Pelchat had copied Boyuk on an email in which he gave a Statistics Canada client both the link to an information portal and a password for it.

Boyuk felt the email constituted a security breach and consulted with another manager; they agreed it was at least a violation of Statistics Canada protocol since it contained a password. They decided the email had to be recalled immediately.

Boyuk emailed Pelchat then walked to his desk, but he was away on lunch break. She left behind her sticky note, reasoning that he might not check his email right away.

At about 12:40 p.m., Boyuk told the labour relations board, Pelchat entered her office, shaking the blue sticky note. “This is harassment, and I don’t appreciate being treated this way,” he told her, according to Boyuk. Pelchat was angry, loud and threatening, she said.

Boyuk said she asked Pelchat to sit down, but he kept interrupting her as she tried to explain the situation. When he finished making his complaint, she said, he made “a disdainful hand gesture” and left.

Boyuk told the labour relations board that she felt threatened during the confrontation and trapped in her office. She was left shaking, she said, and unable to comprehend the source of such rage.

When Pelchat subsequently emailed Boyuk, saying that he felt harassed by her actions, she emailed her own manager to share his complaint and report that Pelchat had been “verbally violent” in her office.

He was sent home and a workplace investigation was launched the next day.

Pelchat told the investigator that he was not angry or loud in Boyuk’s office. He spoke calmly and quietly to Boyuk about what he considered her inappropriate and aggressive sticky note, he said. He denied acting in any way threatening.

Two women who sat near Boyuk’s office said they heard nothing unusual on the day in question.

The director of Statistics Canada’s standards division, Alice Born, imposed a one-day suspension against Pelchat, who had a previous reprimand on his file for insulting a manager. Born said she felt Boyuk’s version of events was more credible.

Pelchat grieved the suspension and took his case to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board. He argued that the discipline was unfair, malicious, and based on a flawed investigation that lacked independence.

Pelchat told the hearing he was surprised when he first saw his manager’s sticky note, which caused his throat to tighten. “It was abrupt,” he said of the Post-it.

Pelchat said he went to Boyuk’s office and told her that he didn’t like her approach and felt attacked by her sticky note. He also tried to explain, he said, that the password in his email had expired and did not pose a security issue. But his manager’s tone was aggressive, he said, and he left her office when she rose from her desk and moved towards him.

Pelchat retired three months after the incident in July 2016.

In a ruling released this week, board adjudicator Linda Gobeil ruled that the whole of the evidence favoured Boyuk’s version of events. She upheld the one-day suspension in the case.

Post-it notes have been part of workplaces since 3M introduced the canary yellow Press n’ Peel memo pad in 1977. The product was renamed Post-it Note three years later; there are now thousands of different sizes, shapes and colours.

Pelchat could not be reached for comment Wednesday.


Originally posted by National Post on 11/28/2019.