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B.C. Tribunal Rules Firm Discriminated Against Employee For Marijuana Use

Herb Fellow

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VANCOUVER - The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled a window contractor discriminated against an employee because his physical disability allowed him to smoke medical marijuana.

The company has been told to pay $500 for injury to the man's dignity, feelings and self respect. Greg Wilson's claim against Transparent Glazing Systems alleged he was fired after a superintendent's letter sent to company management said Wilson's medication seemed to impair his ability to do the job.

Wilson, who smokes pot for migraine headaches and bulging back discs, denied the allegation at a hearing last May.

Company officials told the rights tribunal that Wilson was fired because he was disrespectful, verbally abusive and difficult to work with.

In her ruling, tribunal member Diane MacLean wrote that while there was little disagreement between the events, the conclusions drawn were very different.

"(Wilson) viewed himself as an experienced and competent trades person," MacLean said. "He felt that his difficulties on the job had to do with the attitudes and work ethics of his co-workers."

Philip Aquin, the owner of Transparent Glazing, said during the hearing that Wilson was given the opportunity to run a project, but it was apparent that he was not qualified to do the job.

The hearing was told that company managers even held an emergency meeting about Wilson's temper and attitude. "Mr Wilson was throwing tantrums, including throwing material around," MacLean wrote.

Wilson objected to the reference is the supervisor's note that his medication impaired his ability to do his work. "Mr. Wilson believed that the superintendent was referring to his marijuana use and, since he had a medical marijuana licence, he was doing nothing illegal," MacLean stated.

Aquin fired Wilson in March 2006, nine months after he was hired, saying no employee wanted to work with him and that the superintendent's letter was the "final straw."

MacLean ruled the company discriminated against Wilson because of his physical disability. "Mr Wilson also maintained, and I agree, that he was adversely treated because he was not given an opportunity to respond to allegations regarding drug use." She said Transparent Glazing Systems had a duty to ask if Wilson's disability was affecting his performance.

MacLean didn't order the company to pay for lost wages, saying Wilson likely would have been fired in any event over his incompetence. She noted that Wilson denied during the hearing that pot smoking had any impact on his job abilities. "However, I accept that there was an insult to his dignity when TGS appeared to rely on the superintendent's perception that Mr. Wilson was impaired due to his medication."

Source: The Canadian Press
Copyright: 2008 The Canadian Press
Contact: The Canadian Press
Website: The Canadian Press: B.C. tribunal rules firm discriminated against employee for marijuana use
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