A recent Ontario case is highlighting the importance for employers to train staff in accommodating all disabilities – even the invisible ones.
The Baton Rouge Restaurant in Oakville was ordered to pay damages by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after failing to accommodate the needs of one regular patron with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and germaphobia.
Previous management had been able to accommodate the man’s needs via a multitude of special arrangements, including sitting him at a specific table, preparing food in a certain way, and washing his seat in front of him.
However, it seems the additional effort discontinued when ownership changed hands.
On one subsequent visit, the customer’s specific needs were not met and an altercation between him and the manager took place, with allegations arising that the manager made several inappropriate comments.
The complainant – identified only as P.G in official court documents – claims the manager said: “Now I know why the police shoot crazy people like you.”
His testimony went uncontested as a representative for the restaurant failed to submit a response to the HRTO, which eventually found the man to be “very credible.”
Tribunal adjudicator Brian Cook compared the situation to previous cases in which restaurants had denied access to customers who had a guide dog or service animal and said it would have taken only “very simple accommodations” to meet the man’s specific needs.
Ultimately, the HRTO found that the respondent discriminated against the applicant's disability, injuring the applicant's "dignity, feelings, and self-respect."
“This decision highlights the need for restaurants and other customer-facing businesses to ensure that front-line employees make a reasonable effort to respectfully accommodate the special needs of customers with mental or psychological disabilities,” stressed leading employment lawyer John Mastoras.
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