The Roman Catholic Church faces a human rights complaint from a former employee who was fired after taking leave for depression.
Ginette Chaumont worker for 22 years as the assistant to a series of Ottawa archbishops, but says she was fired because menopause left her depressed, disorganized and inefficient.
Chaumont, 59, recognized her failings and tried to compensate by working unpaid overtime. However, in November 2011 she was dismissed by Monsignor Kevin Beach.
She has been unable to find new employment and has now launched a human-rights case against the church which she said still “means everything to me.”
Chaumont was first diagnosed with clinical depression in 2005, but was treated and the symptoms subsided until she hit menopause in the winter before her dismissal.
“Basically, my whole life revolved around the church and, once my job was gone, it was like I was left facing nothing,” she said.
The church denies that there was any discrimination, and planned to defend its position, a spokesperson said.
According to a statement from the Archdiocese, Chaumont was advised during the termination meeting that “she had returned to the problematic patterns of behaviour she previous exhibited.” And “given that she did not correct the problematic behaviours which had previously been addressed with her, her employment was being terminated.”
Lawyer Alan Riddell, who is representing Chaumont “the Archdiocese, didn’t lift a finger to accommodate the symptoms of the disability and the menopause.”
If the tribunal decides against the church, the organization could face paying more than two years of back pay, as well as any damages awarded for emotional harm.
Mental illness in the workplace is a big issue for HR, and damages for human rights discrimination are going up.