Fired woman complained about Irving Jr.'s speeding

A New Brunswick woman says she was fired from her job at an Irving-owned company last June because she complained about Arthur Irving Jr.'s driving during a business trip.

A New Brunswick woman said she was fired from her job at an Irving-owned company last June because she complained about Arthur Irving Jr.'s driving during a business trip.

Michelle Blanchard's discrimination complaint was heard Tuesday at an arbitration hearing — she filed the complaint with Worksafe NB under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The hearing was heard by John McEvoy, a law professor at UNB, in Saint John on Tuesday, and is expected to continue Wednesday.

Blanchard was an environmental engineer for Cobalt Properties Ltd., a subsidiary of Irving Oil.

She claims that she was on a business trip from June 13 to 21, 2010 in Newfoundland and Labrador with two of her colleagues in leasing and sales, her supervisor Karen McMahon and Irving, the company president.

She said Irving was speeding up to 178 km/h in an 80 km/h zone and was talking on his cell phone while driving.

Using a handheld device while driving in Newfoundland and Labrador is illegal.

Blanchard said she had been afraid during the drive and told McMahon later that day during lunch, when Irving wasn't around.

McMahon told Irving about the concern. Blanchard said while Irving did slow down a bit during the rest of the trip, she still believed him to be over the speed limit when she was in the car with him.

When she got home back to Saint John on June 23, Blanchard said she asked to meet the human resources manager via email.

That afternoon in a meeting with the human resources manager and her supervisor, she was told she was being terminated for "performance and attitude issues."

Company lawyer Kelly VanBuskirk argued the dismissal had nothing to do with Blanchard's complaint about Irving's driving.

He said Blanchard couldn't answer a number of Irving's questions during the trip, hadn't brought her laptop, and got one of the site plans mixed up — all undermining her credibility.

VanBuskirk also said Blanchard had some communication issues with one of the company's clients.

Blanchard said she had worked for the company for a few years and with Irving Oil prior to that. She said her performance evaluations had always been very good and had just gotten a $13,000 bonus just a few months prior to the trip.

Under the act, the arbitrator can order the company to cease any discriminatory action, reinstate the employee, pay any lost wages, and order that any reprimand be expunged from her record.

Irving wasn't present for the hearing.

Blanchard said she'd like her job back, she currently works in Calgary, but she's a single mother, has a daughter in university in New Brunswick and her father is ill.

If she comes back, she said she wants some kind of safe driving policy, to ensure it's a safe place to work.

A decision is expected within two to four weeks.