Tribunal upholds banning of obese, sweaty nurse from operating room

Hospital should have done more to accommodate medical condition: Union

A Quebec ministry of labour tribunal has upheld a Gatineau, Que., hospital's decision to fire an obese operating-room nurse who perspired excessively.

The nurse, who weighted 300 pounds and cannot be named, worked in the operating room at the Hull Hospital for five months in 2003.

The hospital barred her from working in the operating room because her excessive sweating could pose an increased bacterial risk for patients, said hospital lawyer Charles Saucier.

The hospital tried to help and the nurse frequently changed her clothes during surgery, but she continued to perspire and her clothing remained wet, said Saucier.

The nurse had the right to be accommodated by her employer because obesity is a medical condition, said Michèle Boisclair, vice-president of the Federation interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec.

The union had proposed adopting a more flexible schedule and providing special scrubs that would prevent excessive sweating.

The union filed a grievance under the Quebec Charter of Rights and the labour department tribunal heard testimony in 2006 and 2007 before ruling in favour of the hospital last week. The union has 30 days to file an appeal.

The nurse was fired in 2005 for "professional reasons," said hospital spokesperson Sylvain Dubé, but he could not elaborate because of an agreement between the hospital and the nurse.

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