Monday, February 22, 2010

Nova Scotia rules Justice Department discriminated against correctional officer with dyslexia

From The Chronicle Herald in Canada:

The provincial Justice Department has discriminated against a correctional services worker who has dyslexia and has been dealing with anxiety and depression, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has ruled.

Sen. Donald Oliver, who headed the inquiry, said in his decision that Michael Trask had proven his allegations during a board of inquiry hearing last spring and that workers in the department’s correctional services division need more training to prevent discrimination in the future.

Trask had argued that correctional services officials didn’t do enough to accommodate his dyslexia or offer support so that he could overcome his difficulty in writing reports.

"I am not satisfied that the department has currently in place sufficient remedies to ensure that this could never happen again to another person," Oliver wrote.

In his 77-page decision, he sided with commission lawyers, who said the discrimination in Trask’s case didn’t come from any one individual but rather a "systemic failure to accommodate" him.

Oliver ordered that workers in the correctional services division undergo "extensive anti-discrimination sensitivity training."

The commission will oversee the training and it will start by March 1.

Oliver said the evidence at the board of inquiry showed that there is a greater understanding and awareness of disabilities in the division than there was when Trask first joined as a correctional services officer in 1999, but the public service provides more support to people with disabilities in the division than the Justice Department does.

"The issue and concerns upon which the complaint for this case is founded relate to the Department of Justice (correctional services) and not the (Nova Scotia) Public Service Commission," Oliver wrote.

"The evidence at the inquiry demonstrated an overwhelming dearth of proactive measures in the department to deal with persons with disabilities."

Trask last worked for correctional services in 2005 and is on long-term disability, although he is still considered to have a job.

Oliver said that general damages should be awarded to Trask, but the senator will wait 30 days for the two sides to try to agree on an amount. If they can’t reach a deal, Oliver will determine how much Trask receives.