Addiction problems are terrible yet they are not diseases. Calling them such removes any responsibility on the part of the person who has the problem. This case sets a terrible precedent:
A Manitoba health care worker who was fired for her alcohol addiction has been reinstated and awarded more than three years of back pay in a ruling that is likely to have wide-reaching implications.
Linda Horrocks was discriminated against for her “alcohol-related disability,” and her employer did not accommodate her special needs, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission said in a decision released Tuesday.
On June 3, 2011, Horrocks was suspended without pay from her job as an aide at the Northern Lights Manor nursing home in Flin Flon, Man., after a co-worker suspected she’d come to work inebriated. She was fired on July 20, 2011, and again April 30, 2012, after she allegedly broke an abstinence agreement.
The Northern Regional Health Authority “violated the complainant’s rights … by unfairly depriving her of an opportunity to participate in the workplace,” adjudicator Sherri Walsh wrote.
Horrocks admitted to her employer that she had an alcohol problem and agreed to seek treatment but was terminated after she refused to sign a memo stating she would abstain from alcohol. She was set to return to work nearly a year later, having decided to sign the agreement, but was once again let go by the NRHA, which said it had received two reports she’d been intoxicated outside the workplace.
Horrocks denied both allegations.
“An addiction to alcohol constitutes an illness and falls within the meaning of disability under the (Human Rights) Code,” adjudicator Sherri Walsh wrote.
“I conclude, therefore, that the complainant was treated adversely by the respondent and that her disability was a factor in that adverse treatment.”
The NRHA “(failed) to make reasonable efforts towards accommodating the complainant’s disability and associated needs.”
Walsh ordered the NRHA to reinstate Horrocks to a position and salary suited to her seniority, and pay her for wages lost since her termination – a first in Manitoba, according to a statement from the commission.
Walsh also ordered the NRHA to pay Horrocks $10,000 to compensate her for “injury to her dignity, feelings or self-respect” and to implement a “reasonable accommodation policy” within three months.