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Can My Employer Terminate Me While I Am on Long-Term Disability?


While Ontario’s Human Rights Code (HRC) protects workers who live with a disability, there are some cases when termination of injured or sick employees is legal. It is not so much that you are being terminated per se, but rather that your employment contract has been frustrated through no fault of either party. There are, however, many factors that play into whether your employer may be able to terminate your position while you are out of work.

The HRC offers protection from disability discrimination. However, there are special rules that may apply when someone has a diagnosis or symptoms that make their return to their previous job impossible in the future.

It is important to note that your employer can also fire you for reasons unrelated to your medical condition or disability, and, as long as there was a legal reason to do so, there are no protections for this type of dismissal under the HRC.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code Protects Your Job in Some Situations

The HRC makes it illegal to fire an employee simply because they sustained injuries or have an illness that supports a claim for long-term disability. This law requires all employers in Ontario to make a full effort to accommodate an employee’s disability up to the point of “undue hardship” on the company. This includes allowing them reasonable time away to get treatment and heal.

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If an employer terminates a worker while the worker is on long-term disability, the employer will need to prove they attempted to learn more and to determine if the employee might return to work within a reasonable time frame. If the employer fails to do so, they could be liable for wrongful dismissal.

The definition of “undue hardship,” and the related concept of “frustration of contract,” are somewhat ambiguous. They are often defined by the courts in wrongful dismissal trials. If you believe you may have been a victim of wrongful dismissal, a lawyer who pursues these cases may be able to help you.

Understanding How Long-Term Disability Plans Work

Long-term disability plans generally include two standards:

  • The “own occupation” standard
  • The “any occupation” standard

Your plan likely defines each of these standards and includes language on when you must meet the requirements of each one to qualify for or continue receiving benefits. This language can be confusing, so it may be a good idea to let your lawyer review your policy if you have questions.

When a person first applies for long-term disability benefits, it is generally under the “own occupation” standard, which generally means the claimant cannot regularly perform the substantial duties required to maintain their own job. These policies generally continue to use this standard for a certain length of time.

During this time, your employer will most likely need to either accommodate your leave or prove undue hardship or frustration of contract before they can terminate your position.

The Role of the Canada Pension Plan in Disability Benefits

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If you qualify for long-term disability long enough for it to move to the “any occupation” standard, your long-term disability insurer may require you to apply for benefits under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). CPP disability benefits are generally available to workers who paid into the program. This plan is run by the federal government and will effectively subsidize a portion of your disability payment from the insurance company.

Your Employer Must Accommodate Your Condition Even If Your Long-Term Care Insurance Carrier Denies Your Benefits

If you apply for long-term disability benefits and the insurance carrier denies your claim, this has no bearing on your employer’s responsibility under the HRC to accommodate your medical condition. If your doctor says you should not work, you can remain on sick leave and appeal the denial or file a lawsuit to pursue compensation. Your employer has the same responsibility to you as they would if you were receiving disability benefits.

You may need to provide notes from your doctor on a regular basis throughout this process, but your employer should not attempt to terminate your position until they can prove undue hardship or frustration of the contract. If they try to fire you during this period, it may be illegal.

Talk to a Long-Term Disability Lawyer Serving Toronto Today

If your insurance carrier denied your application for long-term disability benefits or you have other questions about this type of insurance coverage, the team from Preszler Injury Lawyers may be able to help you. We are a personal injury law firm serving Toronto and nearby areas. If your injuries prevent you from traveling to our office, we may come to you.

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