In recent years, regulators have more frequently addressed offensive behaviour towards colleagues and coworkers as serious professional misconduct. For example, in Ontario College of Veterinarians of Ontario v. Dr. Ackerman, 2022 ONSC 4334 (CanLII), a veterinarian (the registrant) was suspended for eight months and required to complete several educational, therapeutic, and monitoring measures for repeated instances of yelling, belittling and even physically slapping the hands or shoving away staff members. One client testified about leaving the practice after observing such behaviour. The power imbalance likely had an impact on the sanction ordered. So did the accompanying allegation that the registrant directed staff to amend records to conceal how long some surgeries took.
The Court upheld the findings and sanction. The findings of credibility were supported by the evidence and explained in the hearing panel’s reasons. The sanction was not unfit. The Court agreed that there was a lack of precision and explicit enforcement mechanisms for the educational, therapeutic, and monitoring measures but did not find that it made the order unfit.
Interestingly, the Court rejected the registrant’s request that the regulator should pay for the transcript of the evidence for the days the registrant did not attend the hearing. The Court said: “Such an obligation would amount to a significant expenditure by the [regulator] solely to assist those who had chosen not to participate in the process and is not unfair in these circumstances.”
Rude behaviour to colleagues and coworkers can amount to serious misconduct.