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October 25, 2021

Benefits picture cloudy when it comes to human rights

One employer tried to cut off an employee’s disability benefits, arguing they had a mental illness and not a physical one. Another didn’t want to provide benefits for a female employee on pregnancy leave.

In both cases, the employer was found to be discriminating against the employees based the Ontario Human Rights Code, explains Maria Kotsopoulos of Blaney McMurtry LLP. Sometimes though, the circumstances are less clear.

For example, denying group life insurance coverage to someone who's likely to travel to locations that are considered dangerous by Foreign Affairs is likely discrimanatory, she tells Smallbizadvisor. It might adversely affect those who were born or have family in these countries.

So too, in all likelihood, is bumping employees over 65 off benefits plans or failing to offer disability benefits to recent older employees even though younger hires would be still eligible.

Changing the rules after the fact is what prompted Clarence Gustavson to fight back. After his retiree benefits were changed to cut his out-of-province coverage, he sued -- and eventually won.

While recent hires may not expect to receive post-retirement health benefits when they retire, employees with vested health benefits are entitled to hang on to them, the court ruled.

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...