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Ontario Employer Advisor Keeping Employers Advised on Developments in Labour and Employment Law

Mental Illness in the Workplace – Lessons from Germanwings

Posted in Human Rights, Occupational Health and Safety, Policies
Daniel Pugen

My colleagues Tim Lawson and Justine Lindner recently drafted an important article titled, “Lessons from Germanwings: Identifying and Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace.”  For those not familiar, a flight by Germanwings from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps.  Evidence was released showing that the co-pilot intentionally crashed the plane.  Then, more information came to light that suggested the co-pilot suffered from a mental illness and that he may have not been fit to fly.

As many human resources professionals already understand, identifying and accommodating mental illness is extremely difficult to manage in the workplace.  The importance of accommodating and not stigmatizing mental illness versus ensuring the health and safety of workers/customers is a difficult balance for many employers.  In addition, employers may be faced with the situation of an employee acting in a strange, erratic or uncharacteristic manner.  That employee may occupy an important or safety-sensitive position within the workplace.  If the employee does not disclose any illness or disability, does an employer have a legal obligation to confront him/her as possibly having a mental illness?

Tim and Justine’s article offers great legal and practical considerations that employers should follow on this very important and timely issue.  I encourage you to take a look at this article.