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Employees who hate working…a human rights issue?

work-stressAn employee who hates working and being managed by his or her supervisor – Can this become a human rights issue in the workplace? Well it depends; but I recently learned at a conference that I attended that an employee who hates working and being managed can actually raise a human rights issue in the workplace.

How can this be possible you say?

Employees have to work and listen to their managers’ instructions – that is why they earn employment income. Employers have the right to manage within their workplace.

A human rights issue may arise when an employee is so discontent with working and being given instructions that the employee develops a “disability” under human rights legislation in the form of “stress”, “blood pressure issues”, or a similar ailment, and gets a doctor’s note confirming that the workplace is making the employee ill.

For instance, an employee may obtain a doctor’s note and request a leave of absence due to “stress” from working. There could even be a situation where management and the employee have a dispute, the employee makes demands, management refuses to meet all the demands, the employee becomes ill and obtains a doctor’s note confirming the illness, and the employee insists on, and/ or threatens a constructive dismissal claim against the employer.

Under these circumstances, most employers would want to immediately terminate that employee.

However, I learned at the conference that it may not be in the employer’s best interests to act hastily and terminate the employee. Just because the employee is trying to use illness in order to justify his or her autonomy, a “disability” may be present, and the employer is recommended to follow a disability management process by:

  • Obtaining medical evidence in order to understand the nature of the employee’s disability and the leave requested;
  • Engaging in discussions with the employee in order to learn of his or her situation, accommodation needs, and options;
  • Requesting any additional medical information and opinion necessary in order to understand the employee’s limitations to perform work to properly accommodate; and
  • Working with the employee (and union if applicable) to facilitate an early return from a disability leave of absence to the previous job, or previous job with modifications, or a more appropriate job, or last resort – termination with a package (seek legal advice before doing this).

Whatever happens, employers are not recommended to say they refuse to accommodate the employee. The ideal situation is for an employer to offer the employee options without giving up management rights.

Communication, transparency, and effective disability management goes a long way in achieving a solution to this type of issue. For the confrontational employee who refuses to be managed – be proactive, patient, objective and apply your progressive discipline policy.

In a recent newsletter from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, I read about a new free resource The Workplace Mental Health Promotion: A How-To Guide – that provides both employees and employers with the tools and resources they need to create a healthy workplace. You should take a look.

I am sure it could help your company when next you encounter this type of situation where a human rights issue arose from a similar situation.

Christina Catenacci
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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