Failure to accommodate costs employer more than $22,000

Employer was aware of employee’s depression, but didn’t check whether performance and behavioural issues were linked to it before dismissal
By Ronald Minken
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/22/2013

Poor performance and bad behaviour by an employee can be a headache for an employer and may set the employee on the road to dismissal. However, though the employer may think things would be easier with the troublesome employee out of its hair, it must be careful to determine whether the problems are caused by a disability.

In Mackenzie v. Jace Holdings Ltd., the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal determined an employer discriminated against an employee suffering from depression when the employer terminated the employee due to the negative impact of her disability on her performance while at work.

The employee, Sharon Mackenzie, worked for Thrifty Foods in its floral department for eight years when she was terminated without notice due to poor performance. Specifically, Thrifty Foods complained Mackenzie was curt and abrupt towards co-workers and management, exhibited mood swings, refused to take responsibility for her performance issues, engaged in gossip, and was manipulative, disruptive and demotivating with little hope her behaviour would change. Although Thrifty Foods was aware Mackenzie suffered from depression and she had been away from work on stress leave for about two months before her termination, the company did not investigate whether her behaviour was linked to her depression and if she required any accommodation. Mackenzie launched a human rights application against the company alleging discrimination due to disability and seeking damages for unpaid wages for a period of six months, as well as damages due to injury to dignity, feelings and self respect.