The BC Ambulance Service failed in its duty to accommodate a
paramedic who could no longer palpate a pulse because of his
multiple sclerosis. The employee's manager was also held
That was the decision of the BC Human Rights Tribunal after
the employer had won an earlier case on judicial review. We
reported on the judicial review in an
earlier post because it established the important principle
that the duty to accommodate does not include an independent
procedural duty. The matter was sent back to the Tribunal to
reconsider, and with that second look, the result is worse for the
employer and the manager.
The Tribunal determined that the disabled employee could have
been accommodated as a "Driver Only" and "Special
Driver Only" without undue hardship. Even though the Ambulance
Service seeks to have both paramedics in each ambulance to be fully
qualified, the fact is that there are 135 "Drivers Only"
out of 2,500 part timers. The Tribunal noted the lack of evidence
to show actual harm arising from not having both paramedics being
able to palpate a pulse and concluded the addition of one Driver
Only to an existing complement of 135 was statistically
The case is also worthy of note for the finding against the
manager. Many human rights complaints name both the employer and
individual managers, but there are relatively few cases where
individuals are found liable.
In this case, the manager was found to have actively thwarted
efforts to find an accommodation and to have deliberately sought to
prevent Cassidy from returning to work. The Tribunal commented more
than once that the manager did not do the things expected of
management when it is necessary to consider accommodation under the
Human Rights Code.
Therein lies the good news for managers: If you approach
accommodation issues objectively and neutrally, and apply a
reasonable effort to the task, you are unlikely to be held
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).