Impossible to accommodate an employee who denies his alcoholism

Release date: December 5, 2017

A seaman challenged the dismissal handed down to him for failing to comply with a policy forbidding any employee in an operations-related position to be under the influence of alcohol or its residual effects. The union argued that the employer should have accommodated the employee instead of punishing him, as the latter suffered from alcoholism and the employer was aware of this situation: the employee had already attended three rehabilitation sessions, and the employer had implemented measures to help him. In the case at hand, the union demanded an accommodation, while the employee denied being an alcoholic and insisted that his consumption was strictly social: he did not want to be helped and offered no cooperation. In fact, there was no evidence to the effect that the employee actually was experiencing a relapse. Neither was it proven that his attitude of denial was an outcome of his alcoholism. That might have been the case, but this remained to be proven, as illness is not something to be merely presumed. According to the arbitrator, forcing the employer to accommodate the employee when the latter refuses to participate in such accommodation would amount to subjecting him to undue hardship. The grievance was rejected.

Syndicat des employés des traversiers Québec-Lévis v. Société des traversiers du Québec, 2017 EXPT-738, 2017 QCTA 185, Nathalie Faucher Esq.

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