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Mental health critical in employee rights

According to a recent study, some 500,000 Canadians are unable to work in a given week due to mental health problems. Despite this massive number, a major stigma still exists around the subject of mental health, as some Ontario workers can attest. However, discrimination based on a person's mental health stands in opposition to employee rights, and efforts are being made to improve conditions for those who suffer from so-called "invisible illnesses." 

Back in February, the CBC covered several proposed changes to workplace rules that pertain to employees with mental illnesses. Since then, hundreds of employees have come forward to discuss their fears about handling their mental health in the workplace. Many pointed to the stigma that labels them as "crazy" or unstable, a stigma they fear could lead to missed job opportunities, harassment and even termination of employment. In general, the employees who have come forward expressed fear of being shamed. 

These concerns have escalated in some cases to full-fledged class action lawsuits filed against employers. In one instance, nine employees whose contracts did not allow for support of their mental health concerns filed suit against the city of Toronto in an effort to expand their agreement to include mental health support. The onus is being put more and more upon employers to reach out to employees in an effort to support them, rather than shaming them into silence. 

In any discussion of employee rights, the mental well-being of workers must be taken into consideration. Here and elsewhere across Ontario and the nation, comprehensive guidelines are being put in place to help limit harassment and stigma surrounding mental illness. However, employees who still suffer from discrimination in their workplace may benefit from retaining the services of an experienced employment attorney. 

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