Nova Scotia worker awarded $20,000 for discrimination

Employee fired upon returning from short-term disability leave

A Nova Scotia man was discriminated against by his employer on the basis of a physical disability, a human rights board of inquiry has ruled.

Joseph Cottreau was a service manager for R. Ellis Chevrolet Oldsmobile Limited, a car dealership in Digby, N.S. In 2004, Cottreau went on short-term disability leave because of chronic back pain. When he returned to work after three months, the dealership fired him.

The dealership’s owner, Richard Ellis, claimed eliminating Cottreau’s position was a business decision designed to save money. However, Cottreau thought his firing had more to do with his injury and filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission claiming discrimination based on his disability.

The board of inquiry agreed, finding Cottreau’s injury was the biggest factor in his dismissal, which constituted discrimination based on his back problems. It ordered the dealership to pay $18,800 in damages plus interest to Cottreau. In addition, the board ordered the dealership’s staff to undergo sensitivity training at the cost of the employer.

The commission will monitor the employment practices of the dealership for three years and it must provide contact information and reasons for termination of any fired employee during the three-year period.

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