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Depressed worker faced discrimination: tribunal

Oct 28 2012

A grocery store in Victoria broke the human rights code by firing a depressed employee, says B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal.

The tribunal ruled Friday that Thrifty Foods discriminated against the woman when it dismissed her for behaviour including mood swings and irritability with her managers.

"Thrifty's had a duty to inquire into whether the behaviour exhibited ... was due to her mental disability and whether she required any accommodation," tribunal member Catherine McCreary wrote in the ruling.

"They did not fulfil that duty."

The tribunal has ordered the store to pay the woman more than $17,600 for lost wages and $5,000 for injury to dignity.

The woman began working for the store's floral department in 2001. She was terminated in fall 2009, and filed a complaint with the tribunal in April 2010.

The ruling says the woman suffered depression most of her life, and was treated with medication and cognitive therapy.

The store told the tribunal it dismissed the woman because she was curt and abrupt with co-workers and management, was considered to be gossipy and manipulative, and she refused to take responsibility for such behaviour.

The woman reported being able to manage her life outside the workplace, with most of the stressors occurring at the store.

"It is the employer's responsibility to obtain relevant information about the employee's current medical condition, prognosis for recovery, ability to perform job duties and capabilities for alternate work," McCreary wrote.

The tribunal found that Thrifty Foods and a store manager knew the woman suffered from depression and was taking medication as treatment.

The employee left work on "stress leave" for two months in the summer of 2009. She was fired several months later.

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