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Careers Is there recourse for being fired after disclosing my extreme anxiety?

THE QUESTION

I was recently fired after disclosing extreme anxiety to my employer. When I informed my manager of my disability, she pushed me to quit by asking, “Is this the job you really want?” She was very insistent and no accommodations were ever made for this disability, and then I was let go. Is there any recourse for me?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Douglas Ewen, Senior manager human resources, Techform, Penetanguishene, Ont.

Losing your job is a very stressful event at any time. Losing your job while coping with a mental-health challenge obviously increases your stress tenfold. Based on your brief description of events, you definitely do have recourse.

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Anxiety is a mental-health issue and, at the very least, does require investigation by your employer. Although your employer is not entitled to a diagnosis, it is entitled, and actually has a duty, to ask about prognosis and possible accommodation. Whether it can accommodate or not becomes a decision based on the requirements at that time and its ability to meet those requirements.

The fact that your employer did not even ask what accommodations might be required is a gaping hole in its approach to your situation. Apparent badgering by your boss compounds the issue of your employer not addressing the accommodation question. It demonstrates that it knew about the issue, it chose not to address it and it actively encouraged you to abandon your employment because of it. Not a good recipe for staying out of legal jeopardy.

Your next consideration is whether it makes sense for you to pursue a greater settlement. This will depend on your current severance. If your current severance is generally fair, you may decide that the cost of getting a higher amount is not worth it. If your current settlement is low or you want to challenge the employer on principle, then proceeding may make sense. In any event, connecting with an employment/accommodation lawyer to look over your claim would be a very good first step.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Shane King, Partner, McLeod Law LLP, Calgary

Yes, you likely have a potential action for wrongful dismissal. An employer should not, ever, terminate someone when that employer knows, or ought to know, the employee is, or could be, requiring any form of disability benefits, and especially should not do so because of a disability.

Initially, if the employer terminated you because of the disability, there is a likely action under human rights legislation, which could bring about payment of damages for your lost wages, as well as additional damages for the termination itself. If you require time off work for your disability, with medical recommendation and documentation, the employer may have to provide the benefits you lost because of the termination. You should consult a lawyer.

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