No Discrimination Where Alcoholic did not Tell Employer

On the Monday morning after becoming intoxicated and acting inappropriately at the company Christmas party, an employee, Mr. Huffman, was fired. Following the termination, he claimed that he was an alcoholic and that the company should have known and accommodated that disability.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario held that in order to establish discrimination, Mr. Huffman needed to establish that: (i) he suffered from a disability; (ii) he made his employer aware of the disability; and (iii) the employer failed to accommodate him.

In this case, the employer was able to demonstrate that it did not know that Mr. Huffman was an alcoholic; rather, it simply thought that he became intoxicated on that particular day. Mr. Huffman was unable to demonstrate that he had ever advised the employer about his disability.  His discrimination complaint was dismissed.

While this decision may sound reasonable to the average person, it is in fact a welcome decision for employers who have often wondered about the extent to which they are required to guess whether or not a troubled employee may suffer from a hidden underlying disability such as alcoholism.

Huffman v. Mitchell Plastics: http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onhrt/doc/2011/2011hrto1745/2011hrto1745.html

Catherine Coulter

About Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter (She/Her/Hers) practices employment and labour law as a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution group of Dentons’ Ottawa office. Although she principally represents and advises clients on employment and labour matters, she also acts in the fields of general commercial litigation, insurance litigation and privacy and data management.

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