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Firing of worker with disability not discriminatory, but tribunal critical of benefits cessation

by HR Law Canada

A civil engineering technologist who alleged his dismissal was timed to prevent him from applying for long-term disability (LTD) benefits due to escalating health issues has found a sympathetic ear in the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

P.M. filed a complaint against his former employer, Associated Engineering after he was terminated following a 17-year career with the company on the basis of disability. The Tribunal found the complaint justified, in part.

“I have found that on a balance of probabilities, while Associated’s termination of (P.M.’s) employment was not discriminatory, the termination of his benefits was,” the Tribunal said.

According to the Tribunal, there was no evidence to suggest that the employment termination was due to his disabilities. The company maintained that the layoff was due to a lack of suitable work and was part of a larger downturn, a point the Tribunal accepted.

However, the ruling highlighted a critical distinction regarding the abrupt termination of P.M.’s benefits, which occurred on the same day he was formally notified of his employment termination.

“The proximity of the timing of the termination of benefits and (his) clear communication to Associated of his intention to file an LTD claim supports an inference that this factored into their decision,” the decision read. The Tribunal found it discriminatory that P.M.’s benefits were cut off almost immediately, without adequate explanation from Associated, especially given his disclosed intent to file a disability claim.

In his testimony, P.M. described the impact of his physical condition on his work, noting fluctuating levels of pain that hindered his ability to perform certain tasks, a situation he claimed was known to his employers. Despite these challenges, evidence suggested that he often downplayed his disabilities to continue working.

The Tribunal’s decision mandates that Associated cease the contravention and refrain from similar violations in the future. However, it deferred a final decision on the appropriate remedies for the loss of benefits and damages for injury to dignity, pending further submissions from both parties.

For more information, see Mynett v. Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd., 2024 BCHRT 123 (CanLII)

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