More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Employers must try to accommodate mental illness: Ontario human rights body
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
CBC News

Dismissing an employee with a mental illness without first trying to accommodate the worker amounts to discrimination, said a spokesman for the Ontario Human Rights Commission after it ruled against an Ottawa company that fired a man with bipolar disorder.

"It is time for our society to recognize that mental illnesses are illnesses. They are not worse than other illnesses in terms of their consequences in the work environment," Fran?ois Larsen, director of the policy and education branch of the commission, told CBC's French-language service Wednesday in French. "There are obligations to accommodate people when they are sick."

He was commenting on the significance of a recent Ontario human rights tribunal decision against ADGA Group Consultants Inc. to pay Paul Lane $80,000 after ruling in October that the company had discriminated against Lane on the basis of a disability.

The company has said it will appeal the decision.

According to the facts presented in the ruling, Lane was dismissed in October 2001, eight days after he started work as a senior test analyst as ADGA. He had told his supervisor that he had bipolar disorder and his behaviour should be monitored.

"As a consequence of his dismissal," Lane was hospitalized almost immediately, the ruling found.

The company denied that it discriminated against Lane on the basis of his disability. It alleged he was dismissed because he was not capable of performing the essential functions of the job for which he had been hired. It also said he had lied about the amount of sick time he had taken during a previous job that would have alerted the company to his illness.

However, tribunal adjudicator David J. Mullan found the company did not, as required, make a significant effort to accommodate Lane or properly assess the situation to determine whether it could accommodate Lane's disability without "undue hardship."


Is there legislation in Ontario, or any Province that defines what consitutes mental illness or disorder that requires accomodation for an employee?

We know about accomodations that are made for people with certain physical limiations such as employees who are wheelchair bound.

Fran?ois Larsen, director of the policy and education branch of the commission

Is Mr. Larsen making the best out of a bad political situation with his comment, or does his comment amount to an actual change in legistation?


I know a young woman with bipolar who stopped taking her meds, had a severe episode involving a person at her work, was hospitalized and went on sick leave. After 6 mths they terminated her. She got a lawyer and her job back. The company accomodated her for part-time work and treated her really well!

She is now a very valued full-time employee who follows her treatment faithfully and her illness is in remission. She has a new position after continuing her education and competeing for that position. I'm sure they are really glad to have kept her.

She is an absolutely wonderful young woman and her courage is astounding!


That is a very encouraging story HeartArt. Unfortunately, I am sure that there are probably more not so positives stories out there.


It is true and unfortunate that for most people the ending would not have been so happy, as you said, Halo.

Getting the lawyer at the earliest stage was a major key.

She had the means to borrow the money from a family member for the lawyer. The lawyer was experienced in dealing with these kinds of cases. The fact that she was willing to go back to the same job after such embarrasment also helped.

She knew of someone in the company who was an advocate for those with mental illness so contacted and spoke with the person eliciting their help. She has a very good psychiatrist who also does therapy.

The company is quite large and respected by the people who work there so they do try to appreciate their employees.

The fact that she was lucky to experience remission with her treatment is also a key factor to her being able to continue part-time school then apply it to a promotional position.

But...having the lawyer was the most important part to her keeping her job.
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