A recent decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that the Toronto Police Services Board discriminated against an employee with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with mental health disabilities and mental illnesses are protected from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Constable Ariyeh Krieger, a new recruit with Toronto Police Service, experienced PTSD as a result of a traumatic incident that occurred while on duty. Following the incident, Krieger began displaying unusual behaviour, and as a result, Toronto Police Service suspended him as “unfit for duty” and initiated an investigation for misconduct. Krieger had not requested accommodation and was unaware that he was experiencing PTSD until the night of his suspension.
The tribunal found that Toronto Police Service failed to accommodate Krieger. The decision upholds the duty of the employer to accommodate an individual’s mental health disability and mental illness even though the individual is not capable of communicating that they need accommodation. Moreover, the decision affirms that when a mental health disability or mental illness is known or suspected, employers are obligated to find out if the misconduct is related to the disability. Employers must first offer accommodation before disciplining the employee.
The decision also reinforces employers’ obligations to accommodate individuals with mental illnesses and other invisible disabilities, just as they would accommodate individuals with visible disabilities. The tribunal ordered Toronto Police Service to reinstate Constable Krieger to his position and to develop a disability accommodation policy for the organization.
To access the full Human Rights Tribunal decision, visit www.canlii.org.
See also “Police Constable Experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Should Have Been Accommodated on the Job,” Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2010, available at www.ohrc.on.ca.
In related news, Toronto Police Services is hosting the Third Canadian Police Psychology Forum. This year’s conference takes place November 4 and 5 and will focus on the provision of psychological supports to police officers serving on the front lines. For more information about the conference, visit www.oacp.ca.