Should you Disclose your Disability?
We receive calls from employees with disabilities who are looking for accommodation at the workplace. Generally, an employer has a duty to accommodate its employees. The following case illustrates how far this duty goes.
Bellehumeur v Windsor Factory Supply Ltd.
The Windsor Factory Supply (WFS) had been accommodating Mr. Bellehumeur for various disabilities he reported over time, including alcoholism, thyroid and cardiac issues. However, Mr. Bellehumeur did not disclose he had a mental disability.
On November 8, 2005, Mr. Bellehumeur was terminated for cause as a result of making violent threats to his fellow employees. Mr. Bellehumeur brought an action seeking damages for wrongful dismissal, arguing that he should not have been terminated for cause due to his mental disability and that the termination itself was an act of discrimination.
The trial judge concluded the threats made were workplace violence, and that these threats amounted to just cause for dismissal.
On the issue of discrimination, the trial judge found that because the WFS was unaware of Mr. Bellehumeur’s mental disability at the time of his termination, it did not discriminate against Mr. Bellehumeur when firing him. Rather, the WFS fired Mr. Bellehumeur as it would have fired any employee who engaged in such misconduct.
For more on this decision, click here.
Lessons to be Learned
Although the Human Rights Code does offer protections to employees with disabilities, and places certain obligations on employers, employers do not have these obligations unless they are aware of these disabilities. While employees are not required to disclose their diagnosis, employers do need enough information about the nature of the disability to fulfill their duty to accommodate (click here for our blogs on the duty to accommodate). When looking for accommodation at your workplace, it is important to consult a human rights lawyer to advise on how to disclose your disability in a way that gets you the accommodation you need, but still protects your privacy.
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