David Baker reviews “Mental Health Disabilities at Work: A Practical Guide for Employees, Employers and Unions”

  • December 11, 2019
  • David Baker

Mental Health Disabilities at Work: A Practical Guide for Employees, Employers and Unions, by Dr. Mike Condra and Meryl Gary: 2019: Lancaster House

Lancaster House: $65.00

Mental health cases have suffered for years from the stigma of being treated differently from other disability based human rights cases. While the reasons for this second class treatment may be left unsaid, they are likely due to the challenges that clients with mental health disabilities pose to their unions or lawyers due to the acute distress they experience.

In some other cases, clients resist labels and reject the whole notion of acknowledging their disability, thereby relieving the employer of their duty to accommodate it.

The authors of Mental Health Disabilities at Work acknowledge that much of this differential treatment of mental health cases persists, particularly in arbitration awards. Furthermore, they make a clear language distinction. As the title reads, the book addresses mental health disabilities.

Starting with the seminal HRTO case of ADGA [upheld on judicial review], the predominant approach for human rights adjudicators and increasingly for arbitrators has become to ignore the stigma of mental health disabilities and apply human rights law as they would to any other case of disability discrimination.

Dr. Mike Condra and Meryl Gary are at their best at focusing on and explaining mainstream mental health issues and applying standard human rights law. They built a strong foundation this way, but overlooked the nuances of mental health issues and the fact that each case brings its own challenges.

Dr. Mike Condra is excellent at demystifying mental health diagnoses. Meryl Gary, a bakerlaw alumna, is superb legal researcher and writer.

If there is a fault that could be found with the book, it is that it does not adequately cover the complex, proliferating and overlapping issues of human rights and worker’s compensation. For example, in sexual harassment cases, mental health issues that can arise from the mistreatment of the employee by the employer may be used to characterize the employee as expendable.

Lawyer Maryth Yachnin at the legal clinic IAVGO has been doing important work in this area and bakerlaw has been a leader in achieving damage awards for such clients that more closely reflect those granted in tort cases. A second edition of the book would benefit by adding commentary on these issues.

As it stands the book is by far the best available text on the subject and mandatory reading for any lawyer taking on such a case or for a person who elects to self-represent.

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