Suspension of bipolar employee not discrimination: Court

Yukon adjudicators and court agree employer’s handling of workplace misconduct was not discriminatory

A Yukon government department did not discriminate against a bipolar employee when it asked for a medical assessment after the employee was suspended, the Yukon Supreme Court has ruled.

Darrell March worked as the acting assistant deputy of finance in the territory’s environment department when he had an outburst at a meeting of senior managers in which he expressed his displeasure with a department policy. Following the incident, the department by suspending him and recommending he visit his doctor. It also asked to see a medical assessment before allowing him to return to work.

March filed a human rights complaint, claiming he had strong feelings about the policy and his reaction was a result of those feelings, not his bipolar disorder. He said the department discriminated against him by assuming his reaction was caused by his disorder.

The Yukon government said it had reason to think the incident was related to March’s bipolar disorder and it acted accordingly based on information from March’s co-workers. The suspension was an accommodation, not discrimination, it argued.

A panel of adjudicators found the suspension and request for a medical assessment was appropriate action to take and dismissed the complaint. March appealed to the Yukon Supreme Court.

However, the court agreed with the adjudicators, finding March was not subjected to “arbitrary, negative treatment” based on his disability and the government had a right to address what it felt was workplace misconduct arising from March’s behaviour.

“The (Yukon government) temporarily removed Mr. March from the workplace to address and investigate unacceptable behaviour they were not required to tolerate,” said the court in upholding the dismissal of March’s complaint.

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