The Human Rights Legal Support Centre represented an employee who felt their employer had failed to provide proper training as well as a new internal policy mandated in a previous human rights settlement.

In the eyes of the employee and in the ruling of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “HRTO”), the employer’s decision to hire a consultant lacking the necessary expertise with the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”) caused it to breach its settlement. The subsequent training and policy that were created by the consultant spread misinformation and caused further harm to the applicant and other employees they were supposed to help protect.

The case of Robert Cater v. Gestion Claude L’Heureux Inc., o/a Canadian Tire 422, 2021 HRTO 254 came after a mediation settlement between the applicant, Mr. Cater, a Canadian tire employee and the store. Cater had been allegedly fired after the store failed to accommodate his mental health and addiction-related disabilities. The parties agreed to mediate the case.

The initial settlement required that the store deliver a half-day of training for its management and employees and to develop an internal human rights policy focused on accommodating workers with mental health and addiction-related disabilities. A key requirement of this new training and policy was that they be developed by a consultant with expertise in the Code.

The HRTO heard that the store’s published training materials utilized the term “drug addict” and phrases such as “using drugs illegally” to explain its policies on individuals suffering from addiction-related disabilities. The HRTO found that this language inserted unfair and harmful assumptions about people with addiction-related disabilities into the training materials.

These materials suggested that the employer’s Code-related obligations to provide support were limited to employees that were in rehabilitation programs and not actively using drugs or alcohol. The employer’s materials also claimed that its medical personnel could access employee information on the topics of drug use and rehabilitation without their consent.

The HRTO found the internal human rights policy similarly mischaracterized the employer’s responsibilities under the Code. The policy incorrectly pointed to the Canadian Human Rights Act as an important guiding document for the employer and improperly placed the burden of accommodation for disabilities equally upon employees and the store.

The HRTO found that:

  • The store published and presented materials with “language and misinformation that is clearly contrary to the Code”;
  • The trainings and policies put in place failed to follow the agreed-upon settlement or the Code and could further stigmatize and marginalize individuals with addiction-related disabilities; and
  • That the individual hired to do this work by the store’s management was not knowledgeable on human rights and failed to meet the standards of Minutes of the Settlement which outlined the requirements for the training and policy.

The HRTO ordered:

  • The store to develop new training and policies required under the original settlement using a consultant with “recognized expertise in the Ontario Human Rights Code”; and
  • $2,500 to the applicant for the further injury dignity, feelings and self-worth.

To read the full decision, visit Canlli.