Quebec City hospital employees suspended after helping distressed dog in hot car

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MONTREAL — Four suspended Quebec City hospital employees will fight the disciplinary action imposed against them for removing a dog from a hot car and bringing it into the building.

Two separate unions representing a maintenance worker and three mailroom employees said Wednesday they are grieving the suspensions of between three and eight days.

“We have employees who were good citizens, Good Samaritans and they helped an animal in distress and instead of getting a tap on the back, they got a slap in the face,” said Ann Gingras of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, which represents the maintenance worker.

The incident occurred on July 5 at Quebec City’s L’Enfant-Jesus Hospital.

Two employees — one represented by each union — were heading to lunch when they noticed the dog in the back of a car. While returning to work, they saw it was panting heavily.

They decided to check once more later on and noticed the animal was semi-conscious. They called police but decided to open the slightly opened car window further.

Gingras said the employees brought the dog into an air-conditioned office for about three or four hours and gave it water.

They later took the dog out where the owners spotted them and asked for the animal back. The employees gave the canine to Quebec City police, who returned it.

One month later, the hospital announced the disciplinary action.

“Eight days, for someone with a spotless record!” Gingras said of the unpaid suspension levied against the male maintenance employee.

Isabelle Laperriere of the Canadian Union of Public Employees said the longtime hospital employees represented by her union were shocked by the suspensions — three, five and eight days.

She called the measures “exaggerated.”

“They are devastated,” Laperriere said. “These are three women with more than 30 years experience — we’re talking about 40, 38 and 32 years — people who have given loyal service to the hospital.”

A spokesman for the hospital centre said in a statement the employees were sanctioned because they contravened rules that forbid most animals from being inside the hospital.

The only exceptions are service animals or those used in animal-assisted therapy.

“The dog was found, unauthorized, in an inappropriate location that could cause contamination and problem for the respect of hygiene and sanitation standards as well as the rules for the prevention and control of infections,” said Jean-Thomas Grantham.

The hospital declined to discuss the employees’ cases, but both unions hope to be before an arbitrator soon.

“The hospital can have a policy, there are policies everywhere,” Gingras said. “But sometimes you can have an exception, there are emergencies and you have to apply policies with a bit of logic and reasoning.”

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