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Employee with Cancer Receives $20,000 For Discrimination
August 17, 2007

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently awarded an employee lost earnings plus $20,000 in damages for loss of dignity and mental anguish because her termination following a medical leave for cancer was in breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The complainant was a receptionist with an insurance brokerage in Niagara Falls. She took a medical leave to have surgery for ovarian cancer. When it was determined that the cancer had spread, she required a second medical leave and applied for disability benefits. Her leave was extended when she learned that she would have to have more surgery. Although the employer had used another employee to cover her position, it decided at that point to hire a replacement receptionist. The claimant was terminated when she attempted to return to work because, the employer said, her absences had created “havoc” in the workplace and there was no position for her. The employee filed a complaint with the Tribunal alleging she had been subject to discrimination in employment because of a physical disability.

In considering her complaint, the Tribunal accepted that cancer is a physical disability and that complainant had clearly communicated with the employer about her medical condition and needs. The Tribunal found that the employer could have accommodated her disability by hiring a temporary replacement and keeping her position open until her return. In addition to the damages cited above, the brokerage and its principal were found jointly and severally liable and the Tribunal ordered all of the employer’s managers to undergo anti-discrimination training.

Jackson v. M. Butler Insurance Brokers Ltd., 2007 HRTO 5