August 12, 2016

UBC’s Failure to Accommodate Medical Student’s Disability Leads to Reinstatement, $385,000 for Lost Wages and $75,000 Injury to Dignity Award

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that determined the University of British Columbia failed to accommodate the disabilities of a student in its Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Kelly was a resident in the UBC post-graduate training program in family medicine.  He suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as a non-verbal learning disorder.  He filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after he was terminated from the program.  The Tribunal ruled that UBC discriminated against Dr. Kelly on the basis of his disabilities and had failed to provide reasonable accommodation to the point of undue hardship.  The Tribunal ordered UBC to reinstate Dr. Kelly to the program, awarded more than $385,000 as compensation for lost wages and an award of $75,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

On judicial review, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed UBC’s petition, refusing to interfere with the Tribunal’s findings of fact on the issues of accommodation and discrimination.  However, the Court did set aside the dignity award on the basis that it was “arbitrary and therefore patently unreasonable.”

On appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed that UBC did not meet the duty to accommodate and relied on the Tribunal’s findings that, with further accommodation, Dr. Kelly had a realistic chance of success in the program.

The Court of Appeal also reviewed the Tribunal’s award of damages for injury to dignity and restored the Human Rights Tribunal’s award of $75,000.

University of British Columbia v. Kelly, 2016 BCCA 271 (CanLII):


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