In Bellehumeur v. Windsor Factory Supply Ltd., the Court of Appeal of Ontario confirmed an employer’s decision to terminate an employee with a mental disability following an instance of workplace violence.
The employer, Windsor Factory Supply, had been accommodating Mr. Bellehumeur for various disabilities he had reported over time, including alcoholism, thyroid and cardiac issues. When Mr. Bellehumeur made violent threats to other employees as he was leaving the workplace after having been disciplined, the employer terminated him for cause, on the basis that the threats constituted workplace violence. Following his termination, Mr. Bellehumeur alleged that his conduct was linked to a previously undisclosed mental disability.
Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal upheld the termination for cause. The trial judge found that Windsor Factory Supply was not aware of the employee’s mental disability at the time of his termination. Accordingly, the disability played no part in the employer’s decision to terminate. Since the termination was not arbitrary or based on preconceived ideas about the employee’s disability, it was not discriminatory under Ontario’s Human Rights Code. As the Court of Appeal stated:
“The respondent being unaware of the appellant’s mental disability did not engage in discriminatory conduct under the Ontario Human Rights Code when it fired the appellant. They fired him as they would any employee who engaged in such workplace misconduct.”
This decision serves as a reminder to employers that, while employees with disabilities must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship, disability is not always a factor in their workplace misconduct, and it does not necessarily absolve employees for their actions.