A federal judge says the country’s employment insurance (EI) commission had legal right to deny benefits to a Lakeridge Health employee who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Anthony Cecchetto was fired from the hospital network in 2021, after failing to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and rapid antigen test results.
The case recently went to the Federal Court after two other appeals were ruled against.
In his decision, Justice William F. Pentney ruled that Cecchetto’s actions counted as misconduct under Lakeridge Health’s policies.
Pentney noted that the case focused less on the morality around vaccine mandates, and more on the legal definition of ‘misconduct.’
“It is likely that the applicant will find this result frustrating, because my reasons do not deal with the fundamental legal, ethical and factual questions he is raising,” wrote Pentney. “That is because many of these questions are simply beyond the scope of this case.”
According to court records, Cecchetto was first employed by Lakeridge Health in July 2017 and held various roles.
During the pandemic, the hospital network began following provincial policies around COVID-19.
At one point, employees were directed to either receive “full vaccination against COVID-19” or provide a letter-of-exception from a doctor or qualified nurse.
Employees exempted from vaccines were told to instead take rapid tests on a regular basis and submit the negative results to their employers.
Cecchetto allegedly declined both vaccination and rapid testing. He was put on unpaid leave in September 2021 and terminated the following month.
When he applied for EI benefits in October 2021, he was denied by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. The commission ruled that he had been fired due to misconduct, making him ineligible for EI.
Cecchetto appealed the Social Securities Tribunal (SST), claiming the vaccine mandated counted as medical coercion. The appeal was dismissed in April 2022.
He then attempted to make a second appeal, this time to a different arm of the SST. That attempt was denied in July.
The case was moved to the Federal Court. In his decision, dated January 23, Justice Pentley upheld the SST’s rulings.