Victoria grocery store Thrifty Foods will pay a former employee more than $20,000 after the Human Rights Tribunal after firing her over behaviour such as mood swings and irritability, which were related to her mental illness.
Sharon Mackenzie, who suffered from depression for most of her life, worked for the company for eight years, from 2001. The store claimed it dismissed her because she was curt and abrupt with co-workers and management, was considered to be gossipy and manipulative, and she refused to take responsibility for such behaviour.
However, the tribunal found that despite knowing of Mackenzie’s disability, which was linked to her behaviour, the store made no effort to accommodate.
“Thrifty’s had a duty to inquire into whether the behaviour exhibited by Ms. Mackenzie was due to her mental disability and whether she required any accommodation,” tribunal member Catherine McCreary wrote in the ruling.
“They did not fulfill that duty. It is the employer’s responsibility to obtain relevant information about the employee’s current medical condition, prognosis for recovery, ability to perform job duties and capabilities for alternate work,” McCreary added.
Mackenzie was treated with medication and cognitive therapy and reported that she could manage her life outside the store because her workplace was the source of the most stress. She left work on “stress leave” for two months in summer 2009 and was fired several months later.
The tribunal has ordered the store to pay Ms. Mackenzie more than $17,600 for lost wages and $5,000 for injury to dignity.
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