Chodha v. 1352866, 2016 HRTO 1241 demonstrates that human rights tribunals will consider an employer’s bona fide subjective belief in deciding whether the employer has provided a reasonable explanation for apparently discriminatory conduct. Indeed, the employer’s belief may take precedence over factual circumstances, as they did in this case.

The case involved the termination of an employee for allegedly falsifying medical evidence in support of a claim for workers’ compensation.  The applicant (“Chodha”) worked as an assembler. He injured his back while at work and consequently visited his physician. The employer terminated Chodha’s employment because his doctor’s note was dated several months prior to the date of Chodha’s injury. The employer terminated Chodha for his apparent dishonesty regarding the medical evidence of his injury. However, the Tribunal found that Chodha had not in fact, falsified the medical note. Rather, the note was incorrectly dated.

Chodha argued, among other things, that the respondent terminated Chodha’s employment because he had a back disability that limited his ability to work, and because he had claimed benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (“WSIA”). He argued the respondent’s action constituted discrimination due to disability contrary to section 5 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The Tribunal found that the employer sincerely believed that the date on the note was evidence that Chodha was attempting to substantiate a work-related injury and absence from work with a fraudulent note. The employer’s belief provided a non-discriminatory explanation for the termination of his employment. Therefore, the Tribunal found that the employer did not discriminate against Chodha by terminating his employment due to disability or due to claimed benefits under the WSIA.

Written with the assistance of Melanie Simon, articling student.

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