Human Rights Office

Queen's University
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Human Rights Office
Human Rights Office


In Hydro-Quebec v Syndicat des employe-e-s de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d'Hydro-Quebec, section locale 2000(2008), 294 D.L.R. (4th) 407, Hydro-Quebec dismissed a chronically ill employee with a mental disorder who had missed 960 days of work over 7.5 years .   Over the years, the employer had accommodated the employee by adjusting her work conditions and had treated her with respect, dignity and kindness.  However, when faced with new medical evidence indicating that the employee "would not be able to work on a regular and continuous basis without continuing to have an absenteeism problem as in the past", the employer dismissed the employee. The Court of Appeal overturned the dismissal, ruling that the employer had failed to prove that it would be impossible to accommodate the employee.  The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the Court of Appeal's decision, ruling that it had misinterpreted the legal limits of undue hardship; employers do not have to prove that it would be impossible to accommodate an employee; they have to prove that it would be impossible to accommodate an employee to the point of undue hardship.

Moreover, the Court outlined three conditions that must be met in order to justify the discharge of any chronically absent employee with a disability:  

  1. The employer must establish that the employee has a history of excessive innocent absence
  2. The employer must prove that the employee's attendance record will not improve in the reasonably foreseeable future
  3. The employer must show concrete proof that is has discharged its duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship