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Reaffirming the rights of employees with mental illness

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In August 2008, the Ontario Divisional Court upheld the finding of discrimination of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Lane v. ADGA Group Consultants Inc. After being hired as the most qualified candidate, Mr. Lane, a quality assurance analyst, was fired eight days into the job because he requested accommodation for his mental illness. The Court found that the employer had a dismissive attitude towards Mr. Lane and showed disregard for his bipolar condition. When he lost his job, Mr. Lane went into a state of full-blown mania which led to hospitalization for several days, and began a vicious cycle that led to marital breakdown, the loss of his family home, and further instability.

This decision clarifies what steps employers have to take to accommodate employees with mental illness. Steps include getting information relevant to the employee’s ability to do the job, which may include medical condition, prognosis for recovery, job capabilities and ability to do alternate work.

The Court’s findings and Mr. Lane’s circumstances show that people with serious mental health issues can effectively deal with their condition and be productive members of society. But for that to happen, employers must overcome fears and biases and give people with mental illness the dignity, respect and equal treatment that everyone is entitled to under human rights laws.


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