No discrimination when accommodation options are frustrated: Arbitrator

Worker was unable to continue with two separate return-to-work plans; information indicated old job duties weren’t feasible
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/06/2016

A British Columbia employer had the right to dismiss an employee who was no longer able to work her regular job because of a disability, an arbitrator has ruled.

Sun-Rype products is a Kelowna, B.C.-based manufacturer of juice and other products based on fruits and vegetables. Since 2002, Sun-Rype’s collective agreement with its union included an article covering employee absences that stipulated any employee absent from work for 12 months continuously would be moved to the bottom of the seniority list and categorized as inactive. If the employee was able to return to work, she would be returned to her old spot on the seniority list and keep her position.

The collective agreement also allowed employees receiving long-term disability benefits to continue to be eligible for health benefits and would not be terminated. There was no definition of disability in the agreement, relying on the insurance provider’s group insurance policy. Employees became eligible for employer-paid coverage in its medical services plan after 62 shifts and remained eligible until termination of employment.