EI rules not unfair to disabled: ruling

No evidence Winnipeg woman discriminated against

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A Winnipeg woman who has Down syndrome lost her bid to rewrite Canada's employment insurance rules.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2011 (4088 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg woman who has Down syndrome lost her bid to rewrite Canada’s employment insurance rules.

Sabrina Prokopiuk worked for years at the Gap in Polo Park before the store closed for renovations. While she was laid off, Prokopiuk applied for employment insurance. However, she hadn’t accumulated enough working hours to meet EI’s requirements. She’d wracked up 570-odd hours at the Gap, not the 700 needed to qualify for EI, even though she had spent much of her adult life paying into the program.

That prompted Prokopiuk and Legal Aid Manitoba’s Public Interest Law Centre to appeal the case, alleging EI’s qualifying rules violate the Charter rights of people with disabilities. Prokopiuk’s case could have extended EI benefits to many more disabled people who are only able to work a few hours a week.

But Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes, acting as an EI umpire, ruled there is not enough evidence to convince him EI’s eligibility rules discriminate against people with disabilities. In a written decision, he expressed considerable sympathy for Prokopiuk’s situation but noted 86 per cent of workers with mental disabilities are able to qualify for EI.

Instead, Barnes said the real problem may be many disabled people are shut out of the job market and can’t get work in the first place.

The Prokopiuks have decided not to appeal the umpire’s decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.

“I was quite disappointed,” said Shirley Prokopiuk, Sabrina’s mother. “This act was set up to help people. How can someone work at the same job for nine years, leave it for three or four months and not collect? That bothers me greatly.”

Sabrina, 35, now has a clerical job with Direct Action in Support of Community Homes as well as a position at Value Village.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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