Vancouver Pharmacist Sues London Drugs Alleging Wrongful Dismissal Over COVID Vaccine Mandate

By Jared Gnam
Jared Gnam
Jared Gnam
Jared Gnam is a reporter based in Vancouver.
February 12, 2022Updated: February 12, 2022

A Vancouver pharmacist who had worked at London Drugs for 16 years is suing her former employer, alleging that the retail chain wrongfully dismissed her for not getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

On Nov. 1, 2021, Lina Reid was placed “on an unpaid leave of absence for an undetermined length of time because she was not fully vaccinated and did not consent to COVID-19 Testing,” according to her lawsuit filed in the B.C. Supreme Court. 

London Drugs had announced in August 2021 that it was introducing a policy requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, with two doses of the vaccine, or undergo ongoing testing. Reid’s civil claim said “it was expected that the policy would be extended to future booster requirements as recommended by public health.”

The claim noted that Reid’s employer then provided her with the policy in October 2021 and that the policy “expressly stated that the Defendant [London Drugs] reserved the right to charge for such testing.”

Reid, who was 60 years old at the time, claims that “there is no explicit or implicit agreement or term of employment” between herself and London Drugs that allowed the vaccine mandate to be imposed.

By putting Reid on unpaid leave, London Drugs has effectively wrongfully dismissed her because of the “unilateral” changes the company made to the terms of her employment, the lawsuit claims.

Reid’s lawyer, Osaro Obaseki, says his client’s personal reasons for refusing the vaccine or COVID-19 testing aren’t relevant to the case.

Her decision “doesn’t ultimately impact the reality that the employer can’t impose a vaccine policy absent government mandate,” Obaseki told The Epoch Times. “The employer’s decision to place her on unpaid leave as a result of the policy is what is at issue here.”

He added that there are hundreds of similar claims across Ontario, Alberta, and B.C., although he’s unaware of any court decisions to date.

However, he noted that an arbitrator in Ontario recently ruled that a mandatory vaccination policy issued by seniors’ living company Chartwell Housing, which included automatic termination for non-compliance, violated specific provisions of the local union’s relevant collective bargaining agreement.

Public Service vs Private Sector

In an email statement, the College of Pharmacists of B.C. (CPBC) said provincial health orders issued in October 2021 mandating vaccination for health-care workers in the B.C. public service didn’t apply to regulated pharmacists in privately licensed community pharmacies.

It said it’s important for those in community-based practice to review the order to confirm how it applies to them.

“The college is not able to provide guidance as to whether a specific pharmacy would or would not be included in this specific order,” the CPBC said.

However, the college noted that B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Feb. 9 that the province’s vaccine mandate would be expanding to all regulated health-care workers, including pharmacists.

While London Drugs says it cannot comment on ongoing legal disputes with a specific employee, the company said it has put in place numerous policies and procedures intended to protect the health and safety of its employees and customers.

“Our COVID-19 vaccination policy is another important layer of protection,” London Drugs said in an email statement.

“We are confident our health and safety measures are appropriate, justified, and strike a fair and measured balance protecting the rights of our employees and creating a safe work and retail environment for all. London Drugs is confident its workplace safety policies would be upheld in any court proceedings.”

The company added it will be filing a response to Reid’s claim shortly.

Reid says that since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, she has been able to “operate safely by following public health guidelines, including masking, social distancing, contact tracing and health questionnaires.”

“This point is further underscored by the fact that the British Columbia government has specifically chosen not to impose a vaccine mandate on the Defendant or the general population,” the court document stated.

In her statement of claim, Reid said that in her position as a staff pharmacist she was being paid $83,460 annually, received benefits, was part of the company’s pension plan, and had an annual “pay for performance” bonus and five weeks of paid vacation.

She is seeking damages for wrongful dismissal equivalent to 18 months of notice; special damages for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while trying to find alternate, comparable employment; pre-judgment interest; post-judgment interest; court costs; and any other relief allowed by the judge.

At a press conference on Feb. 9, Henry said the government has been working for months with the province’s 19 health regulatory colleges to expand the vaccine mandate.

The new mandate, effective March 24, will apply to all doctors, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists, psychologists, and all other regulated health professionals who work in private practice.

The move comes as other provinces are starting to lift their various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have announced an end to their provincial COVID-19 vaccine passports effective Feb. 9, Feb. 14, and March 1 respectively. Prince Edward Island is expected to discontinue its vaccine pass on April 7, and Ontario’s vaccine passports will soon go under review.

The provincial changes are happening against a backdrop of multiple anti-mandate protests taking place across Canada, which have extended to the United States, Australia, and other countries.