Employee properly fired for workplace violence threats, despite his mental disability: Appeal Court

Disability played no role in decision to terminate; impact would be the same on employee without disability who committed same misconduct
By Adrian Miedema
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 09/18/2015

An employee’s mental disability, unknown to his employer at the time of dismissal, played no role in the reason he was fired. He was fired because he made violent threats against coworkers, the Ontario Court of Appeal has held.

Although the employer had been accommodating of the employee’s “various ‘disabilities’ he reported to them over time: his alcoholism, his thyroid and cardiac issues,” the employer was unaware of his “mental disability” and did not engage in discriminatory conduct in firing him for workplace violence. The court stated, “They fired him as they would any employee who engaged in such workplace misconduct.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal quoted the following statement of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in British Columbia (Public Service Agency) v. British Columbia Government and Services Employees’ Union, in which an alcoholic employee was fired for theft:

“I can find no suggestion in the evidence that (the employee's) termination was arbitrary and based on preconceived ideas concerning his alcohol dependency. It was based on his conduct that rose to the level of crime. That his conduct might have been influenced by his alcohol dependency is irrelevant if that admitted dependency played no part in the employer’s decision to terminate his employment and he suffered no impact for his misconduct greater than that another employee who suffered for the same misconduct.”

For more information see:

  • Bellehumeur v. Windsor Factory Supply Ltd., 2015 CarswellOnt 9460 (Ont. C.A.).
  • British Columbia Public Service Agency v. B.C.G.E.U., 2008 CarswellBC 1941 (B.C. C.A.).

Adrian Miedema is a partner with Dentons Canada LLP in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 863-4678 or adrian.miedema@dentons.com. Adrian's discussion of this case also appears in the Dentons blog www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com.

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