Requiring a Person with a Service Animal to Wait at a Mall Entrance for Four Minutes Costs Mall Owner $ 1000
A Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT) in Sprague v RioCan Empress Walk recently ordered RioCan to pay a lawyer with a service dog $ 1000 in damages for making him wait four minutes before he was permitted to enter a mall. A newly hired security guard apparently did not know the lawyer had the right to enter the mall with his service dog.
Before determining the quantum of damages for injury to the lawyer’s dignity, feelings and self-respect, the Vice-Chair reviewed prior cases involving service animals or guide dogs. The damage awards were between $ 200 and $ 15 000.
When ordering RioCan to pay the lawyer $ 1000 in damages, the adjudicator noted that: the lawyer was with his wife who was 37 weeks pregnant and she experienced physical discomfort because of the wait; the guard was abrupt and rude; and, the lawyer spent much of their “date night” preparing his application to the OHRT.
Lessons to be learned
- Service providers are required to train their employees under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Under this law: “If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the provider of goods or services shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.”
- Service providers should make sure that employees who deal with the public are properly trained and are aware of this law.
- Larger employers may pay larger damage awards than smaller employers. In this regard, the Vice-Chair wrote: “In my view, it is of further significance that the respondent in this case is very large undertaking. Unlike small establishments…., the respondent was well aware of the service animal provisions in the AODA. As a large employer, it has been required to develop a plan to implement the AODA requirements and to develop appropriate policies. In this case, the evidence suggests that the respondent or its agents failed to ensure that the security guard was fully trained and aware of these policies.”
For over 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on Ontario’s employment and human rights laws. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416 317-9894 or at [email protected]
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