In a recent Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision, the Tribunal
determined that a diagnosis of strep throat was insufficient to
invoke the protection of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The application arose from the cancellation of the
Applicant's contract with the Respondent, the College of
Massage Therapists of Ontario, after she was unable to attend its
mandatory two day training program due to illness. The
Applicant alleged that the College's decision to cancel her
contract was an act of discrimination on the basis of
The Tribunal disagreed, finding that the medical condition that
prevented the Applicant from attending the training (strep throat)
did not constitute a disability under the Code and therefore the
cancellation of the contract was not an act of
discrimination. In its decision, the Tribunal canvassed
similar judgments and provided clarity regarding when a medical
condition would not fall under the Code's protection: namely,
commonplace and temporary illnesses are not accepted as
disabilities, as they would trivialize the Code's protections,
which are intended to protect defined groups. The Tribunal
stated that it was not the intent of the Code to "include
literally everyone suffering from a few days illness", and
that transitory ailments that do not act as barriers for persons to
participate in society should not fall within the definition of
"disability" pursuant to the Code.
This decision provides guidance for employers, who are often
tasked with determining which ailments necessitate accommodation in
the workplace. Accordingly, when evaluating these requests,
employers should consider whether the illness in question is
transitory and commonplace. If so, accommodation,
particularly to the extent required by the Code (up to the point of
undue hardship) is not likely required.
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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