Caretaker finds no job waiting upon return from cancer surgery

Employer failed to accommodate when it restructured position during her absence and told her to reapply
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A non-profit housing corporation discriminated against a building caretaker when the owner didn’t hold her job when she took time off for a cancer operation, according to the Manitoba Human Rights Board of Adjudication.

A Vietnamese woman, L.H., came to Winnipeg in 2001 and lived in the Saigon Centre, a building for immigrants owned by the Vietnamese Non-Profit Housing Corporation. She began working at the building on Dec. 1, 2002, as a full-time caretaker. The job involved various cleaning and maintenance duties in the building in exchange for a reduced rent on her apartment. When she accepted the position, she agreed if she couldn’t do the job, they could lay her off.

On Dec. 17, 2003, L.H. gave the building manager a note from her doctor explaining she would be having cancer surgery on Jan. 8, 2004, and she would need to be off work for eight weeks for recovery. The manager told her that much time off was “not acceptable” and she claimed the building owner told her, “if you are sick you have to leave.” They asked her to sign either a confirmation of employment or a resignation but she refused. On the day before the operation L.H. met with the building manager and owner and she was told she could come back after the operation.