"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Sunday, April 13, 2008

'Sorry, You're A Liability' ... Important Human Rights Issue

Apparently some businesses in this great Province of ours are advising individuals with special needs and their families that their services as employees are not welcome. Wait, let me rephrase that, of course they would be welcome as employees ... provided they provide their own insurance coverage.

Sound strange?

A family in Pictou County has brought a complaint to the Human Rights Commission concerning the actions of two business, Sobeys and Blockbusters. According to the family they were advised by both of these fine corporate citizens that their son would have to provide his own insurance coverage if he wished to work in one of their stores. Without such additional insurance, he was considered a 'liability'. And as a side note, according to the family who, in good faith, made their best efforts to secure such coverage, such insurance doesn't even exist.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in respect of employment on the basis of, among other things, physical or mental disability. The Commission will first work to see if some sort of mediated agreement or settlement can be reached between the parties. Failing that, a decision will be made as to whether to forward the complaint to a Board of Inquiry for a hearing.

I must admit that part of me fervently hopes that somehow this family was mistaken, that, as unlikely as it is, they misunderstood the comments of store employees to their enquiries. Not that I really believe that; it's just something I would like to wish to be true. As a lawyer, its very disquieting to think that such practices may be going on in Nova Scotia and, as a parent, it is sickening to consider the possibility.

At any rate, it's certainly an issue to keep an eye on.

I will update you on the complaint as more information becomes available. And if, by chance, your family or someone you know has experienced a similar situation, whether with these employers or others, I would strongly urge you to bring that information forward to the Human Rights Commission. If, indeed, this type of discrimination is being practiced in the Province, it's time to bring it to the light of day and put an immediate end to it.

Such discrimination, if it is occurring, might help to explain statistics like these. (Found on p. 8 of the link)

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