August 22, 2017

While personality disorders have not received the same attention in arbitration and human rights decisions as other mental conditions such as depression or anxiety, they can profoundly affect an individual’s ability to interact appropriately with other employees and to function effectively at work. In this session, Dr. Charl Els, leading psychiatrist, will provide an overview of personality disorders, and experienced human rights lawyers will discuss the scope of the duty to accommodate individuals with these disorders in the workplace.

  • The medical perspective: What are personality disorders? How common are they? Which personality disorders are most likely to interfere with a person’s ability to function at work? Is there a difference between someone with a “difficult personality” and someone with a personality disorder? What is standard practice regarding the diagnosis and treatment of personality disorders? Is counselling someone that certain behaviours are unacceptable likely to result in behavioural change if the behaviours are related to a personality disorder? What about progressive discipline – will it be effective?
  • The legal perspective: In what situations have arbitrators, human rights tribunals or courts recognized personality disorders as disabilities under human rights legislation? Do workplace parties have a duty to accommodate if a psychological or psychiatric evaluation notes “traits” of a personality disorder? What evidence is necessary to establish a nexus between a personality disorder and a behaviour that would otherwise attract discipline or discharge? Are there situations in which adjudicators have refused to recognize a diagnosed personality disorder as a disability? If an employee is involved in a pattern of conflict in the workplace, do employers have a duty to inquire as to whether the employee has a personality disorder?
  • Workplace challenges: What special challenges do personality disorders pose in the accommodation process? Do employers and/or unions have a duty to be more sensitive in dealing with individuals with personality disorders that make them especially sensitive to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing? Will employers be able to successfully claim personality disorders cannot be accommodated on the basis that being a good “team player” is a bona fide occupational requirement? Given that personality disorders tend to be long-lasting and that treatment is difficult, will employers find it easier to establish undue hardship in accommodating employees with personality disorders? Are there effective strategies employers and unions can use to intervene in and defuse interpersonal conflict that might arise as a result of an employee’s personality disorder?