Home Accommodation Toronto District School Board failed duty to accommodate injured steam fitter: Arbitrator

Toronto District School Board failed duty to accommodate injured steam fitter: Arbitrator

by HR Law Canada

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) failed in its procedural duty to accommodate an injured steam fitter, an arbitrator has ruled. The worker was awarded compensation for lost wages and damages for injury to dignity as a result.

G.C., who joined the TDSB as a steam fitter in 2005, suffered a workplace injury in 2007 but continued working until May 2016. Post-injury, he received disability benefits and was later granted a paid leave of absence. In late 2020, while he was out of the country, the TDSB ended his paid leave, transitioning him to unpaid leave due to his unavailability to meet with the Board.

G.C. was restored to active employment in November 2022 following the procedural rulings on his grievance.

Findings on procedural duty

Arbitrator Derek L. Rogers determined that the TDSB did not breach its substantive duty of accommodation under the Human Rights Code but failed in its procedural duty. Key points highlighted include:

  • The TDSB did not offer him any accommodated assignments and excluded him from a BAS Tech posting without considering possible modifications.
  • The Board’s investigation into G.C.’s capacity to take up modified roles was inadequate, focusing primarily on what he could not do safely rather than exploring potential accommodations.

Rogers emphasized that the TDSB’s failure to consider bundling duties or creating a modified role for G.C. was a significant oversight.

Accommodation and return to work

The ruling recognized the extensive investigation conducted by the TDSB into possible accommodations, which concluded with G.C.’s return to work in November 2022. He was assigned to oversee the installation of a new heating system in TDSB buildings, aligning with his restrictions and utilizing his expertise.

This role arose from a unique set of circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, government funding for HVAC upgrades, and a shortage of qualified steam fitters.

Despite this, Rogers noted that the TDSB could have assigned G.C. to this role as early as four weeks before his actual return to work.

Compensation for lost wages and damages

Based on the findings, Rogers awarded G.C. compensation for lost wages covering the four-week period preceding his return to work in November 2022. This calculation is based on a standard 37.5-hour work week at the current collective agreement rate.

Regarding G.C.’s claim for damages for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect, Rogers awarded $2,000. He acknowledged G.C.’s suffering due to the TDSB’s failure to actively consider modifications or alternative roles but found that the procedural failings did not cause a significant impact on his dignity and self-respect beyond his existing circumstances.

For more information, see Maintenance & Construction Skilled Trades Council v Toronto District School Board, 2024 CanLII 61991 (ON LA).

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