A recent successful claim by a person with obsessive compulsive
disorder and germaphobia confirms that the scope of the legal
obligation under Canadian law to accommodate persons with
disabilities continues to expand. In its decision in P.G. v.
Baton Rouge Restaurant (2016) HRTO 500, the Ontario Human
Rights Tribunal ordered a restaurant to pay $12,000 in damages due
to a manager's refusal to serve a patron.
The claim involved an individual, P.G., who has been unable to
work because of medical conditions since 2002. Prior to 2013, the
applicant and his spouse regularly went to their local Baton Rouge
Restaurant. During these visits, P.G. disclosed his conditions and
related requests to the manager and restaurant staff, who
accommodated him. The specific requests including being seated away
from other patrons, having the seating area cleaned in P.G.'s
presence, and particular instructions about how to be served. As an
example, P.G. required that his water be served without a straw or
a lemon wedge, and he had a specific way in which he required his
bread to be served.
In September 2013, P.G. learned that the restaurant was under
new ownership as a franchise. Initially, the accommodations which
he had come to expect continued.
Problems arose, however, during a visit in December 2013. After
waiting for an excessive amount of time to both place his order and
then be served, P.G. asked to speak to the manager. In what the
Tribunal described as a "quite belligerent" approach, the
manager began the discussion by saying "What?". He then
advised that none of the staff wanted to serve P.G. because he was
During the interaction, P.G. attempted to explain that there was
an obligation under the Ontario Human Rights Code to accommodate
his needs. The ill-conceived response from the manager was that he
did not need to accommodate because he was the owner of the
If the potential for a finding of wrongdoing was not already
established, the manager's ensuing remarks virtually guaranteed
a legal proceeding. Rather than de-escalating matters, the manager
said "Now I know why the police shoot crazy people like
you", or words to that effect.
The manager then proceeded to tell P.G. that he was required to
leave, and that he was not welcome back. P.G. attempted to pay for
his dinner, but this was refused.
The consequence was humiliation, and resulting anxiety and
frustration. At the hearing, P.G. testified that he was concerned
that the manager may well have called the police on him based on
not having paid for his meal.
In its decision, the Tribunal held that the allegations of
discrimination were substantiated. As an organization providing
service to the public, the restaurant could not claim that
corporate policy or other reasons justified a denial of service.
This was particularly the case because the required accommodation
had previously been provided.
This ruling highlights the continued expansion of the scope of
the duty to accommodate. In this case, the applicant did not have
any apparent physical disability, and he was admittedly seeking
special conditions of service. The refusal to deny detailed though
not unduly onerous requests for service were ill-conceived and
constituted discrimination. The decision reminds organizations
which serve the public that staff must be attentive to situations
where unusual requests are made, and highlights the importance of
properly considering how to treat persons with disabilities.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
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