In a recent case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal an
employee alleged that he was discriminated against in the course of
his employment on the basis of disability. The employee worked as a
sales agent for the Respondents, which required him to work closely
with auto dealerships to obtain discounted rates on cars for
The employee was clean and sober for eight months before he
started work for his employer, but spent 23 years prior battling
addiction to crack-cocaine, including attending numerous
residential addiction recovery programs over the years. The
employee was sober for the duration of his employment, with the
exception of two weekends in the summer of 2009.
The employer first became aware of the employee's addiction
early in his employment when he asked him to go out for a drink
after work. The employee declined the offer, and explained that he
was a recovering addict. The employee testified that his relapse in
2009 did not affect his work; but he decided to tell his employer
nonetheless about his setback.
Shortly after his relapse, the employee requested payment from
his employer of his outstanding commissions; however, when he
requested payment, he was advised that he would not get paid until
he checked himself into a detox program. His employer went so far
as to lure the employee into his car with the promise of going to a
bank machine to pay him and, instead, attempted to force him to
enter a rehab facility.
The situation deteriorated further when the employee was called
a "f--king crack-head" by his employer during a telephone
call, when the employee was attempting to discuss the reasons
behind why his commissions remained unpaid. The employee gave
evidence that when he was called a "crack-head" he was
hurt and shocked, having been clean for four months, he felt as
though it was "a slap in the face".
Later the same month the employee learned that his employer sent
an email to the other sales agents stating that the employee was
suspected to have been stealing for months and "...is a former
crack head". The employer also contacted some of the
employee's business contacts at dealerships and told them that
the company was contemplating possible legal action against the
employee. The email referred to the company having "worked
with [the employee] to curtail his crack addiction" and help
him into rehab the past year.
The employee resigned from his employment on November 19,
The employee was awarded damages in the amount of $25,000.00 for
the violation of his right to be free from discrimination in the
workplace, as well as compensation for injury to his feelings,
dignity and self-respect. In addition, the Tribunal found that the
employee's resignation from the company was a direct result of
the treatment he received from his employer and he was also awarded
damages for lost wages for three months following the end of his
Halliday v. Van Toen Innovations Inc., 2013 HRTO
About the Author:
Christine N. Westlake is an Associate at Koskie Minsky LLP. She
is a member of the Employment Law Group at Koskie Minsky and
practises in the areas of employment law, commercial litigation and
In the area of employment law, Christine advocates on behalf of
both employers and employees relating to issues involving wrongful
dismissal, breach of contract, discrimination, disability and other
employment related claims. Christine is actively involved in the
Ontario Bar Association Labour and Employment Law Section, and is
the current Editor of the OBA Labour and Employment Law
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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