No room at Copper River Inn for injured Ontario employee

Hotel didn’t assist with short shifts, physical restrictions

No room at Copper River Inn for injured Ontario employee

A former probationary employee at an Ontario hotel has been awarded $20,000 by an arbitrator after the hotel failed to accommodate her following an injury on just her fourth shift.

The Copper River Inn, a hotel and conference centre in Fort Frances, Ont., hired the worker in April 2018 to be a part-time front-desk employee. The worker was subject to a 90-day probationary period under the collective agreement.

The hours varied depending on staffing needs and ranged from four to 32 hours per week, with 24 hours being the norm.

The worker was trained during her first three days of work, including shadowing another front desk employee, performing front desk duties with a training employee, and then the training employee shadowing her.

At the end of her third shift, the worker advised the training employee that she wasn’t yet comfortable working on her own, which she was scheduled to do the next day. However, she proceeded to work the shift, which was on April 27.

During the shift, the worker slipped and fell on a wet floor in the hotel’s kitchen. She could barely walk afterwards, but she finished the last hour of her shift because there was no one to cover for her.

The worker was granted workers’ compensation benefits and was off work for three weeks. She returned on May 17 with a functional abilities form setting out restrictions such as no extended standing, walking, or lifting. She worked her full shift, though it was painful.

The worker was scheduled to work six eight-hour shifts over an eight-day period from May 19 to 26, but she told the general manager that she could only work three shifts per week due to her injuries. However, the hotel was understaffed and the worker ended up working all of the shifts.

The worker worked five more eight-hour shifts between May 31 and June 9, experiencing significant pain and limited mobility. On June 13, the worker called in to advise that she couldn’t work that day or the next because of continuing pain, but she was told there was no one to cover her shift the next day. She reported for work on June 14 and suffered from “agonizing pain” as a result.

The worker received a workers’ compensation report indicating physical restrictions and a limit of four-hour shifts on June 15. The hotel scheduled her for a four-hour shift on June 18, but then scheduled her for a full shift two days later.

On June 19, the training employee called to ask about a booking error while the general manager and owner listened in. The worker denied knowing about it, but the general manager believed that the worker was lying. About 30 minutes later, the general manager called the worker and said her June 20 shift was going to be covered by someone else. When the worker asked what it meant, she replied, “This is not working out” and said there were complaints about her. The worker’s employment was terminated.

Though the worker was probationary, the union grieved the dismissal, arguing that the worker’s injury was a factor in her dismissal, making it discriminatory.

The arbitration board found that the hotel had little interest in accommodating the worker, as it scheduled her for full shifts after she was injured and had restrictions. It terminated the worker the day after the need for an accommodation process was confirmed in a “coordinated effort to establish, over the phone, something akin to just cause or a culminating incident,” said the board.

The board determined that the hotel discriminated against the worker and made no effort to accommodate her disability. The hotel was ordered to pay the worker $20,000 for its “egregious breach of [its] duty to accommodate, which inflicted significant emotional pain on the [worker].”

Reference: Copper River Inn and UFCW, Local 175. Dana Randall — chair. Mike Maher for employer. Jane Mulkewich, Avo Topjian for employee. Nov. 9, 2020. 2020 CarswellOnt 16822

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