Mental disability didn’t influence dismissal, rules court

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Employers are obligated to accommodate workers with a mental disability – but what happens when organizations don’t even know it exists? A recent ruling in the Ontario Court of Appeal sheds some light on the matter.

The case

Employee Fred Bellehumeur was fired from his job at Windsor Factory Supply Ltd. after making violent threads against his co-workers.

In the past, bosses had been supportive of Bellehumeur’s various disabilities – including “thyroid and cardiac issues” – but were not aware of his mental disability.

The decision to fire him, Bellehumeur argued, was discriminatory under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The ruling

The presiding judge, Justice Terrence Patterson, categorized Bellehumeur’s behaviour as workplace violence and insisted the employer’s unawareness actually proved that no discrimination had taken place.

"They fired him as they would any employee who engaged in such workplace misconduct,” the court stated.

Past case

The Ontario Court of Appeal also quoted a statement from the British Columbia Court of Appeal in which an alcoholic employee was fired for theft:

"I can find no suggestion in the evidence that Mr. Gooding's termination was arbitrary and based on preconceived ideas concerning his alcohol dependency. It was based on his conduct that rose to the level of crime. That his conduct might have been influenced by his alcohol dependency is irrelevant if that admitted dependency played no part in the employer's decision to terminate his employment and he suffered no impact for his misconduct greater than that another employee who suffered for the same misconduct."
  • British Columbia (Public Service Agency) v. British Columbia Government and Services Employees' Union2008 BCCA 357 (CanLII) 

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