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Queen's University
 

L.B.

What are the responsibilities of individuals seeking accommodation for a disability?

Facts:

In 1996, M.J., an employee working as a caregiver to L.B., an adult with a disability,  informed the committee of L.B. (the employer), that she would not be returning to work due to an unspecified illness. The employer  requested that the employee submit a medical form so that her needs might be assessed and accommodated. When the employee refused to comply, the employer terminated her employment.  The employee, a person with paranoid or delusional disorder, filed a complaint of discrimination with the Newfoundland Human Rights Commission.  An adjudicator ruled in favor of the complainant, but a trial judge overturned that decision. The trial judge ruled that because the committee had not been aware of the employee's disability at the time of the dismissal, it had not discriminated against her on the basis of disability. Moreover, at the time the employee had refused to fill out the medical form, her  thinking had returned to normal.  The Court of Appeal supported the ruling of the trial judge.  It underscored that in these circumstances, the requirement to submit a medical form was bona fide; that the employer had met its duty to take reasonable steps to inquire about the employee's condition. Moreover, the Court maintained that the employee had knowingly failed to meet her duty to facilitate the accommodation process.  L.B. (Committee of ) v. Newfoundland (Human Rights Commission) (2002) NFCA 38, docket: 99/67.

Question:

  • Does an employee with a mental disability have a duty to facilitate the process of accommodation ?

Ruling:

  • Yes, in this particular case. (See alternate case)

Reasoning:

* The Court recognizes that paranoid or delusional disorder may negatively affect an afflicted person's decision-making skills, such that the employer has a heightened duty to inquire about undisclosed before dismissal. However, when this particular employee refused to complete her medical form, her thinking had returned to normal.

* In refusing to fill out the medical form at a time when her mental condition was stable, the employee failed to meet her duty to facilitate the accommodation process. In these circumstances, dismissing an employee for an act of non-compliance that was not instigated by a disability does not constitute discrimination based on disability.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000