Home Accommodation Warehouse supervisor, fired after minor car crash, was not discriminated against: Human rights tribunal

Warehouse supervisor, fired after minor car crash, was not discriminated against: Human rights tribunal

by HR Law Canada

A warehouse supervisor who was involved in a minor car crash, and fired two months later, was not discriminated against because of a disability, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

The worker, RM, was a warehouse support representative at Fein Canadian Power Tool. He was hired on Aug. 5, 2014. His duties included supervision of two other warehouse workers, each of whom had less seniority than him.

Before RM started at Fein, his wife suffered an injury that resulted in ongoing medical needs. Fein knew about this issue when it hired RM, and he requested accommodation to attend to her needs — specifically, he needed to leave two hours early every Wednesday.

The employer granted this request, and it was in place from the time he was hired until his termination on Jan. 19, 2018. There was no evidence it was an issue in the employment relationship.

Car accident

On Nov. 27, 2017, RM was involved in a slow-speed motor vehicle collision — he was struck from behind while exiting a parking lot. The airbags did not deploy, he did not lose consciousness and he was able to get out of the vehicle independently. Police and EMS were not called.

The following day, he told his employer about the crash. When asked if he was “okay,” RM said he was fine and reported to work later the same day. He did say he would need some time off to attend medical appointments, which Fein granted.

RM did not ask for any additional accommodation to address injuries from the crash. It was his evidence that, as supervisor, he was able to assign himself modified duties that matched his physical abilities.


On Jan. 19, 2018, he was told his employment was being terminated. He claimed, but the company denied, that he was told he would now have time to take care of his disabled wife; more time to look after his own recovery from the crash; and an opportunity to seek a job more in line with his pay expectations.

He received $2,282.10 as pay in lieu of notice and $1,918.33 in severance, for a total of $4,263.43.

RM filed a complaint, alleging it failed to accommodate his disability; discrimination based on disability (from his car crash injuries); and family status (because of the accommodation of leaving early on Wednesdays to help his wife.)

The ruling

The tribunal noted that there was no evidence RM told Fein he had additional disability-related accommodation needs as a result of his car accident.

Moreover, the employer didn’t have any reason to believe there was an issue — all of his work was being done in a timely and competent manner. No medical evidence was presented to suggest he had any difficulty in performing his duties.

It also shot down the notion that the dismissal had anything to do with the accommodation in place for his wife. RM said the comment about having more time to take care of his wife proved it was an issue, though the employer denied saying it.

“Given the long-standing nature of the family status accommodation, any such comment if made, is more consistent with an attempt to soften the blow of termination,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal said it was clear from the evidence that RM’s accommodation needs were minimal. They consisted of time off to attend medical appointments (which appears to have been rare) and being allowed to delegate some tasks.

The accommodation continued until termination, about two months after the accident, and there was no evidence of “objections or resentment” on the employer’s part.

Why was RM terminated?

Fein said the termination arose from legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. Specifically, it said RM — throughout his employment — had displayed difficulties in communicating with his co-workers, including the ones he supervised.

“Heated arguments ensued for which intervention was required. Several co-workers had complained about the applicant’s conduct. One co-worker had spoken of resigning his position if the situation was not addressed. One such argument occurred the day before the termination,” the tribunal said.

Fein had spoken to RM informally on multiple occasions about his attitude and communication issues, but saw no improvement. RM acknowledged that his approach as a supervisor may have led to differences of opinions with colleagues.

But he also said he was never provided written performance evaluations or written reprimands. Fein acknowledged it was a small employer which operated in a “family-style” — it did not keep rigorous records and had no formal evaluation process.

RM acknowledged this to be true and that, if issues existed, they were dealt with informally.

“Ultimately, the absence of a formal disciplinary process is not significant,” the tribunal said. Nor did it need to answer the question of whether RM had been wrongfully dismissed. He withdrew wrongful dismissal allegations in light of the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

The only issue for the tribunal to decide was whether disability was a factor in his termination. It ruled it was not.

“Any disability related accommodation needs were minimal. Accommodations were provided for almost two months without any impact on the employment relationship,” it said. “There is no evidence to suggest that the respondent’s concerns regarding the applicant’s communication issues was a pretext to establish a non-Code related justification for termination. Concerns regarding the applicant’s communication issues existed prior to the applicant’s motor vehicle accident.”

The application was dismissed.

For more information, see Mohammed v. C E Fein (Canada) Ltd, 2023 HRTO 376 (CanLII).

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