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Michelle Dawson v Canada Post Corporation - Autism Not an Occupational Safety Hazard

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:32am

In Michelle Dawson v Canada Post Corporation, Decision No. Decision No.02-023
October 23, 2002 of the Canada Appeals Office on Occupational Health and Safety the appellant Michelle Dawson refused to work and attend a medical appointment required by Canada Post Corporation following an injury on duty absence. Ms. Dawson is autistic and complained that CPC had not given her sufficient prior notice of the medical appointment in writing to prepare for it. A Health and safety officer investigated the refusal to work and decided that a danger did not exist for Ms. Dawson. Ms. Dawson appealed the decision of no danger to an appeals officer pursuant to section 129(7) of the Canada Labour Code, Part II. Under that section an employee can refuse to perform work if it constitutes a danger to that employee.

The investigator had concluded that the direction to attend a medical appointment did not constitute a danger within the meaning of that section of the Canada Labour Code. Michelle Dawson disagreed and appealled providing information regarding her autism disability, the events that led to her refusal to work and the nature of the danger related to her disability. She disagreed with health and safety officer Tran’s conclusion that the requirement to submit to a medical appointment following a leave of absence does not constitute an activity as set out in the Code and so a danger under the Code did not exist.

The appeal board rejected Michelle Dawson's appeal and concluded that: " Underthe Code, Ms. Dawson’s autism and related factors may be considered in respect ofa danger connected with the use or operation of a machine or thing, a hazardouscondition that exists in a work place or the performance of a work activity.However, where the hazard related to an activity is linked solely to the employee’sown medical condition, as in this case, it is not a danger covered by the Code."

It is not clear from the decision why Ms. Dawson felt that a direction to attend a medical examination posed a danger to her because of her autism. Had Ms. Dawson's argument been accepted though it might have been used by federally regulated employers to deny workplace opportunities to employees with autism.
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