Attendance management program was systemic discrimination: Tribunal

Chronic or recurring medical conditions affecting attendance not considered until employees were already put on notice
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A cure for absenteeism or systemic discrimination?

Vancouver’s Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) had a serious staffing problem in 1997. Due to the demands and stresses of the job, the company’s transit operators had an excessively high rate of absenteeism. In an attempt to address the problem, the company introduced a formal attendance management program (AMP), which would monitor employee absences and give them warnings that would become more serious through three levels of the program if attendance didn’t improve, eventually ending with termination.

Attendance improved, but CMBC faced cries of unfairness from the union. Eventually, the complaints led to a human rights tribunal finding the AMP didn’t treat employees with disabilities that affected their attendance reasonably.

Though the AMP was established with a reasonable purpose in mind, CMBC didn’t differentiate between employees whose medical conditions caused them to miss work and general absenteeism. As a result, CMBC was guilty of systemic discrimination in its AMP.