Human Rights Office

Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office

Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (MP) c. 9208-8467 Québec inc. (Résidence Sainte-Anne)

 

Summary

Since 1997, MP suffered from remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis. This condition manifested itself through episodes of tiredness and numbness of the hands and feet, occurring once or twice per year. The episodes varied in length, and their timing was unpredictable.

In March 2011, MP applied for a job as a care attendant at St. Anne's Residence (la Residence Sainte-Anne), a residential care facility for elderly people. The building housing the care facility was owned by Doris Caron. MP replied negatively when asked whether any medical or physical restrictions would prevent her from carrying out any of the tasks associated with the position, and she did not disclose that she had multiple sclerosis. At the time of the interview, MP was not experiencing any symptoms associated with her condition.

On March 24, 2011, she noticed that her left hand was numb and attended with an emergency neurologist the following day, who signed her off work for three weeks. After Alexandre

Caron, the manager, was made aware of MP's absence, and of the fact that she had multiple sclerosis, he requested a medical statement confirming that MP was able to perform her duties as a care attendant. MP agreed to provide such a statement and returned to work just a few days after the conversation.

MP worked several shifts before her next doctor's appointment. During this time, she performed her job well, and although she was unable to serve hot liquids on account of her condition, this restriction was easily accommodated by the other care attendants. However, at her appointment on April 6, MP was advised not to return to work for a further two weeks.

The next day, MP was summoned to a meeting with the Carons and presented with a note signed by Doris Caron informing MP that she was dismissed with immediate effect as the business could not support her numerous absences from work as a result of her health.
 

Questions to be Determined and Findings

Does MP’s health situation constitute a disability within the meaning of section 10 of the Charter? (YES)

If so, was her disability part of the reasons for which MP was dismissed? (YES)

Did the defendants interfere with MP's right to employment without discrimination based on disability in contravention of sections 10 and 16 of the Charter? (YES)
 

Reasoning

1. The Tribunal has already decided that a condition such as, or similar to, multiple sclerosis constitute a disability within the meaning of Article 10 of the Charter.

2. The letter of dismissal that MP received is explicit as to the reasons that lead the defendants to terminate her employment: her multiple sclerosis. This letter was considered to be sufficient evidence of discrimination against MP. Consequently, the employer bears the burden of justifying his actions.

Mr. Caron and his aunt, Ms. Caron, however, state that the dismissal letter did not reflect the real reasons for the dismissal. In their view, the reasons where that MP allegedly lied during her job interview about her health state, which created an irrecoverable breach in the relationship of trust. On the other hand, Mr. and Ms. Caron argued that an optimal physical state constitutes a bona fide occupational requirement for the job and that accommodating MP would have constituted undue hardship.

Regarding MP lying during the job interview, the Judge stated:

The evidence does not indicate that MP lied during her job interview, or that she gave false answers to the questions she was asked. She did not specify that she had multiple sclerosis because she felt she did not have to do so given questions asked. She said she was fit to do the job, and she was supported by her doctor, who had encouraged her to take the nursing assistant course.

Since she had no medical restrictions, she was justified in not disclosing her illness in the absence of a specific question to that effect.

Mr. Caron further argued that MP’s health condition jeopardized the safety of patients and that he refused to accommodate her for that reason. On the other hand, Ms. Brassard testified to MP’s about her competence and stated that she did her job very well and that her minor limitation was easy to accommodate.

The Tribunal also found that the statements of fitness for work provided by the nurse and the neurologist were in no way contradicted because only Mr. Caron’s claims were not supported by any evidence. The questioning of patient safety is therefore unfounded. The application of the test developed in Meiorin demonstrates that the decision to dismiss MP was not justified.

By section 10 of the Charter, the Commission determined that, upon her dismissal, MP was the victim of a "distinction, exclusion or preference," based on one of the protected grounds. [This decision] had the effect of destroying or compromising the right to full equality in the recognition and exercise of Human Rights. The defendants failed to establish a bona fide occupational requirement or undue hardship. It was possible to provide an accommodation to MP, and they did not meet this obligation.
 

Remedy

The Commission's claimed for compensation equal to one month's salary, namely $ 1,149.72, which was granted.

Concerning moral damages, the evidence showed that MP suffered a great deal from this dismissal. She worked for a while in a clothing store; then her doctor diagnosed depression. After being on medical disability for a year, she returned to work part-time. The Tribunal awarded $ 7,500 in compensation for moral damages and $3,000 in punitive damages.