Union Wins B.C. Court Battle for Workers with Chronic Illness

October 26, 2010, 8:30 AM EST

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CAW Local 111 has won a seven-year long court battle with Coast Mountain Bus Company that protects workers suffering from chronic illnesses by striking down a workplace policy that imposed an unfair penalty on workers for absences due to disability.

The ruling was issued by the British Columbia Court of Appeal on Friday, October 15, ending a dispute that originated in July 2003, after local union representatives filed a human rights complaint on behalf of a group of disabled transit operators who deemed the employer's Attendance Management Program unfair and discriminatory.

CAW Local 111 President Don MacLeod says the court's decision is excellent news for the rights of all disabled workers.

"This case really says it is wrong for an employer to systemically discriminate against workers who are absent from their jobs because they have chronic or recurring disabilities," MacLeod said in a statement released on October 18.

"The court agreed that the employer has a responsibility to its workers to recognize that those suffering from chronic illnesses like Crohn's disease, arthritis, diabetes or injuries that affect their ability to work must not be treated unfairly," MacLeod said.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal originally ruled in favour of the disabled bus drivers but the company forced a judicial review of the decision to the B.C. Supreme Court, which quashed some of the Tribunal's orders to fix the Attendance Management Program.

The union then brought the case to the B.C. Court of Appeal, requesting that the lower court ruling be overturned. The Court of Appeal effectively restored the human rights tribunal's original findings.

MacLeod credits the union's commitment to workplace justice and fairness for this important victory.

"Without the union's financial resources and determination to put an end to this unfair practice, we would have never gotten to this decision," MacLeod said.


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