Employer Terminates Disabled Employee Before Union Protection Could Be Gained

Posted by Donna Seale on March 18, 2009

In a March 9, 2009 decision, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal(http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/decisions/2009/pdf/march/99_Mills_v_Norex_Civil_Contractors_and_Reutlinger_2009_BCHRT_99.pdf) ruled that Norwex Civil Contractors Inc. discriminated against Chris Mills on the basis of disability. In particular, the Tribunal concluded that Mr. Mills, who was actually terminated twice by Norwex, was ultimately fired the second time to prevent him from becoming a member of the company’s newly formed union. Membership in the union would have protected Mr. Mills from arbitrary termination on the basis
of disability.

Although the Tribunal would have awarded monetary damages to Mr. Mills, he did not seek compensation. Instead, he brought his complaint to bring public awareness to the discrimination that people with disabilities can, and often do, encounter in the workplace. In this particular situation, Mr. Mills presented with a visible physical disability (his gait was affected and he spoke slowly and precisely) due to a brain injury he sustained as a result of literally almost drinking himself to death. When he was initially terminated by Norwex, he was advised that he had to be let go because other employees were uncomfortable
around him. Norwex reversed its decision to terminate after Mr. Mills asserted his rights to employment without discrimination.
“Wiser” the second time around, Norwex chose to tell Mr. Mills he was now being let go because his job would no longer exist due to the closure of part of the company. Unfortunately for Norwex, Mr. Mills saw right through that explanation and took them to task before the Tribunal. No one appeared at the hearing on behalf of the company.

The decision is a short one (6 pages) and I’d urge you to read it. It shows just what disabled employees can come up against in the workplace. It turns out for Mr. Mills, his most significant barrier to overcome wasn’t his debilitating injury, but his employer.

Reproduced from http://donnasealeconsulting.typepad.com/workplacehumanrights/2009/03/employer-terminates-disabled-employee-before-union-protection-could-be-gained.html