Surprisingly, name tag policies have become the subject of recent litigation and labour board decisions on the topic have been hitting the news. However, the resulting litigation still leaves room for debate. In the recent decision of Prairie North Health Region v Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 5111, an arbitration board in Saskatchewan held that the policy was an impermissible intrusion on employee privacy. However, in a previous decision of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, displaying last names on police officer badges was deemed to be acceptable.

Why were name tags allowed in one instance but not another? One of the key differences the arbitration board in Prairie North described was that the Police Chief in Toronto performed a risk assessment before implementing the policy, which was not done in the case of the hospital workers. Moreover, police work is an inherently risky profession, unlike health care workers.

Ultimately, in Prairie North, without a formal risk assessment and adequate safety protocols, the name tag policy in Saskatchewan was held to be a violation of the Saskatchewan Employment Act for failing to address the prevention of violence against workers. The policy also violated Saskatchewan’s Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and was held to be inconsistent with the collective agreement.

These decisions show that name tag policies can have complex intersections with a variety of laws, from health and safety to consumer privacy. Before implementing a new name tag policy, employers should review the applicable provincial and federal laws regarding privacy, labour, and health and safety.  The difference between the healthcare worker’s decision in Saskatchewan and the police decision in Ontario also illustrates the importance of making evidence-based decisions before implementing new policies.

Written with the assistance of Kira Misiewicz, articling student.

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