July 18, 2017, we attended a mediation in a wrongful dismissal claim. The client had been replaced while convalescing from surgery. It was his position that he had told his employer before he left for the surgery that he required up to six months before his doctor would clear him to return to work. The employer made no note of that conversation and later, assumed he had told them he'd be gone for "three months". Because the client was getting physiotherapy in his homeland, he was not available to receive letters from his employer demanding to know where he was and why he hadn't returned to work yet. When the client notified the employer that he was ready to return to work after his stated six months he was told he had already been replaced without notice on the basis that he had abandoned his job of almost twenty years. The client sued for wrongful dismissal and the employer maintained their right to fire without notice on the basis of a breach of the employee's duty to let her employer know where she was, and how she could be reached, even if away for medical reasons. While the actual terms of the settlement must be kept confidential, it is our view that a fair settlement was achieved with the client receiving the equivalent in pay in lieu of notice we said he deserved.
In the Recent case of Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp. the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal was entitled to dismiss a discrimination claim based on drug addiction. Mr. Stewart had been fired from his job for violating the company's zero-tolerance drug policy. He argued that he was being discriminated against because he was a cocaine addict. Although addiction is a recognized disability under Alberta human rights legislation, Stewart was fired because he tested positive for cocaine after an accident in the mine. The SCC majority cited safety as being the paramount consideration and that Stewart was rightfully terminated because his drug use at work created a safety hazard, not because he was an addict. In dissent Justice Gascon argued that a drug policy that automatically terminates employees who use drugs, prima facie discriminates against individuals burdened by drug dependence.