Mar 17, 2011
Managing Disabled Employees
By: David Taub
Employers must tread carefully when dealing with disabled employees. The Ontario Human Rights Code expressly protects disabled employees’ right to equal treatment, without discrimination because of disability.
“Disability” is a loaded word. It covers far more than physical illness. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a disability “covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and others not. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident or developed over time. It includes physical, mental and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, drug and alcohol dependencies, environmental sensitivities, as well as other conditions.”
The result of this extremely broad definition is that many actions or conduct that employers would not consider to be disabilities are in fact disabilities according to the law.
As noted earlier, drug or alcohol addiction is a disability. This means that you are not necessarily free to fire an employee who is routinely drunk on his or her return from lunch as that individual may be an alcoholic, rather than irresponsible. Practically, an employer may be unable to make this determination. But once the employee presents a medical note stating he or she is an alcoholic, the employee cannot simply be fired. Similarly, an employer cannot have a policy of firing any employee found drunk on the job.
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