Employees with mental health concerns need to be accommodated

In a recent decision, an adjudicator of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board found that the Parole Board of Canada failed to accommodate an employee’s disability, contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.  This decision provides important confirmation that employees with mental health concerns must be accommodated by their employers up to the point of undue hardship.


A grievance was filed by Line Emond, a statistics and data quality manager at the Parole Board of Canada, due to emotional stress caused by her fear of a co-worker. The medical evidence presented at the hearing revealed that the grievor’s fear was real and the emotional stress caused by the co-worker’s presence affected her ability to work. She had requested accommodation from her employer permitting her to work anywhere except in the same building as her co-worker.  While the employer offered to move her to an office on a separate floor with additional security, the grievor’s treating physicians agreed that the employer’s proposal was insufficient as the grievor would continue to feel unsafe. The medical evidence demonstrated that this emotional stress affected her memory, concentration and her ability to function normally.

Board’s Decision

In a decision rendered on January 25, 2016, Adjudicator Linda Gobeil allowed Ms. Emond’s grievance. The Adjudicator found that the grievor suffered from a disability or incapacity: the emotional stress suffered by the employee amounted to a disability that triggered the employer’s duty to accommodate. The Adjudicator further found that the employer failed in its duty to provide reasonable accommodation. The Adjudicator found that the employer’s proposed solution was not a reasonable one, and it was reasonable to expect the employer to be able to locate a workspace in another location for the employee. The employer was ordered to find a workspace in another building for Ms. Emond, and Ms. Emond also received compensation for the lost wages and benefits during her time on long-term disability.

As counsel for the grievor, Kim Patenaude, of RavenLaw, told the Ottawa Citizen, the Adjudicator’s decision “has the potential to broaden an employer’s responsibility to provide accommodation” and is a win for employees with disabilities, especially those with mental health concerns.

[This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]

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