June 9, 2020

While we usually think of addictions in terms of involving substances such as drugs and alcohol, there is a movement within the medical community to classify as addictions the compulsive need to engage in activities such as gambling, video gaming, and sex. While the medical debate rages on, employers and unions must deal with the challenges that arise when these behaviours affect the workplace. At what point do interests become problematic? Are adjudicators willing to consider these behaviours to be addictions? When can these behaviours be classified as disabilities requiring accommodation?

In this session, an addictions expert will join leading labour experts in considering these questions, examining issues such as the following:

  • Understanding compulsive behaviours: Can behaviours be “addictive”? How do you differentiate between an enthusiastic interest and a compulsive behaviour or an addiction? Are there any key hallmarks or features of a process addiction or compulsive behaviour? How long does a person have to have those symptoms in order to be diagnosed with a disorder? Are these behaviours officially recognized as medical conditions — for instance, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)? Are there any common treatments for problematic compulsive behaviours? What is the prospect for recovery?
  • Impact on the workplace: How do these behaviours often manifest in the workplace? In what ways can these compulsive behaviours have a negative impact on the workplace? Are there any red flags that should raise suspicion that a worker may have a problem?
  • Duty to accommodate: Is an employer required to accommodate compulsive behaviours? Does the answer vary depending on the nature of the behaviour? What if the condition is not officially classified in the DSM-5?
  • Establishing a medical condition: Are adjudicators willing to consider compulsive behaviours to be disabilities even in cases in which the alleged disorder is not listed in the DSM-5? What type of expert evidence could employees and unions advance to support such a claim? How persuasive is this evidence? What factors can influence the weight that will be accorded such evidence?
  • Assessing discipline: What factors do arbitrators consider when assessing the appropriate disciplinary penalty in cases in which a compulsive behaviour negatively affects the workplace? How significant of a role does the nature of the worker’s job play in this assessment (for instance, if a worker handles a lot of money, works with minimal supervision, or provides care for vulnerable persons)?
  • Last-chance agreements/conditions for reinstatement: Are there measures or conditions that should be considered as part of an accommodation plan, a term of a last-chance agreement, or a condition for reinstatement?