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No evidence to support claim employee addicted to alcohol: commission

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The Canadian Mental Health Association discriminated against a female employee in western Manitoba on the basis of her "perceived" addiction to alcohol when it fired her, an adjudicator has ruled.

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission said Friday the mental health association used the belief that the woman had an addiction to treat her poorly.

Adjudicator M. Lynne Harrison stated in her decision that an addiction to alcohol constitutes an illness and falls within the meaning of a disability under the Human Rights Code.

In this case, Harrison found that there was not even sufficient evidence to support that the employee had an addiction that would constitute a disability. She concluded however, that it did not matter if the addiction was real or perceived. The evidence indicated that her employer and others believed that she had an addiction to alcohol and under the Human Rights Code a perceived disability can result in discriminatory actions.

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Westman Region had argued that the only reason the woman was fired was for misappropriation of funds. Harrison said she was not convinced there was clear and compelling evidence to support the allegation.

Harrison said the mental health association must pay the woman for lost wages as well as damages of $4,000. She also ordered the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to monitor the Canadian Mental Health Association, Westman Region’s employment practices for two years.

The employee’s name was not disclosed. She was only referred to by the initials C.R. in Harrison’s ruling.

C.R. filed a complaint with the human rights commission in January 2009. A hearing was held in early May of 2011 in Brandon.

The full decision will soon be posted on the commission’s website.

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