Employers should investigate further before immediately dismissing employees for violating workplace drug and alcohol policies. An employee’s diagnosis of substance dependence would be considered a disability, which is a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) for federally regulated employers.
A recent Nova Scotia labour arbitration decision suggests that employers may not have to accommodate employees who have medically diagnosed sex addiction where behaviours associated with such an addiction clearly justify discipline or termination.
The decision in this case makes it clear that it is not enough for an employee with a disability to merely inform his or her employer of a desire to return to work. The employer’s duty to accommodate will only be triggered when the employee provides the employer with evidence of his or her ability to return to work, including any disability-related needs or restrictions.