Lesson from Canada Post — think about accommodation before rejecting application

Desrosiers v. Canada Post Corp. 2003 CarswellNat 2810 (CHRT)

Martin Desrosiers had been working for Canada Post for eight years when he had a work-related accident that required him to have major back surgery.

After four months’ leave, he was back at his job as a technical analyst, though he was under the following medical and physical restrictions:

•change position every 20 to 30 minutes;

•stand for short periods of time (five to six minutes);

•lifting under 18 pounds;

•occasional stair climbing; and

•push or pull carts with 20 pounds of resistance or less.

While he was off, his position had been reclassified to a lower level. He applied for a higher-level analyst position and did not get it because, the human resources department said, he was “medically unfit to perform the requirements” of the job. These included moving furniture to access cables and electrical outlets.

A tribunal decided Desrosiers’s back problem did constitute a disability and was therefore a prohibited ground of discrimination under the act.

The tribunal said Canada Post should have taken a closer look at ways in which it could have accommodated Desrosiers’s disability before eliminating him from the job competition. (The HR officer admitted she had given only “a fleeting thought” to possible accommodation.) Once the human rights complaint had been lodged, one Canada Post employee wrote a memo asking another employee to “make sure we have a… paper trail regarding (Desrosiers’s) ability to complete the physical demands of the job.”

The tribunal said this was too little too late, noting it was “the kind of question the employer should have put to itself in 1997, not 2002.”

The tribunal decided Desrosiers had been discriminated against and ordered a second hearing to decide on remedy.

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