Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Profit from Drunkenness

Earlier posts on this blog may have given the impression that the mischief of human rights commissions is a recent aberration and confined to Ontario and Alberta. Here's one from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

In 1991, the Commission ordered Canadian National to rehire FN, who had been dismissed in March 1985 for repeated absences due to drunkenness. The Commission said that CN had discriminated against him on the basis of a disability -- his drinking.

FN's supervisors first noticed his problem in 1984, and referred him to Alcoholics Anonymous. He attended  two or three AA meetings, became absent from work more than usual, and had an accident with a company car, an incident he attempted to cover up.

Even then, he was not fired, but suspended, and sent to two drug-dependency programs. He refused to participate in follow-up counselling and AA sessions. CN dismissed him, saying he had not seriously attempted rehabilitation.

Unmoved by CN's efforts to accommodate Mr. N's "disability," the Canadian Human Rights Commission held the company had no right to fire him, and ordered he be re-hired with six-years' back wages.

Fortunately, the Federal Court of Canada would have none of this mischief. It overturned the Commission's judgement.

What if a small business had hired FN, and lacked the resources to launch an appeal? It would likely have been forced into bankruptcy. Human rights tribunals too often miss the big picture.

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