The union representing Metro bus drivers has won a ruling that finds a company crackdown against absenteeism was unfair to the disabled.
Published: October 15, 2010 2:00 PM
A crackdown against chronic absenteeism by transit bus drivers in Metro Vancouver discriminated against people with disabilities, the B.C. Court of Appeal declared in a written decision released Friday
The verdict reinstated a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision that the Coast Mountain Bus Company campaign against excessive employee absences went too far.
It is a victory for the union that represents Coast Mountain employees, local 111 of the National Automobile, Aerospace Transportation and General Workers of Canada.
The crackdown was launched after a 1997 report by the provincial auditor-general found that B.C. transit workers had an absenteeism rate that was more than double the average of five other North American public transit companies.
Under the “attendance management program,” employees who were considered to be off work too often would be warned, then given a maximum allowable number of absentee days with the threat of being fired for “excessive” absenteeism if they exceeded the limit any time over two years.
The union complained the policy was applied “mechanistically” in a by-the-book approach that refused to recognize the situation of workers with chronic
disabilities like arthritis, diabetes and Crohn’s disease, and created unfair stress and anxiety in such people placed in the program.
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing ruled in 2008 that the policy amounted to a systemic discrimination against people with disabilities because it was
applied in a rigid fashion that did not take into account any special circumstances until after the two-year warning had been issued.
The company was ordered to stop applying the policy to people with “chronic or recurring disabilities” and told to pay six employees $5,000 to $6,000 each for “injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.”
The company appealed to the B.C. Supreme Court and won a ruling in 2009 that portions of the tribunal decision were “unreasonable,” in particular the declaration that the policy amounted to “systemic discrimination.”
The Appeal Court decision reversed that ruling and reinstated the finding.
The Appeal Court also re-imposed a tribunal order against applying the policy to people with disabilities and ordered the company to pay the union’s legal costs.