A legal victory for people with autism over employment insurance

A La Pocatière resident’s recent legal victory could give a boost to autistic people who may struggle to get employment insurance benefits if their condition forces them to quit their jobs.

Alexie Plourde was officially diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2020. She can have trouble keeping a job: she is hypersensitive and sometimes feels unbearable stress and anxiety when circumstances are not good. And when things weren’t going so well, he once gave up due to an autistic meltdown – a melt -, She explains; It was the only solution she saw to keep her sanity.

“A melt, it’s a flood of emotions. It’s so painful that sometimes we make quick decisions,” Alexie says in an interview with The duty. “But the next day we realized that we wouldn’t have been so hasty in making that decision and would have preferred to try something else before we left.” [notre emploi]. »

He has been denied employment insurance benefits on a number of occasions in recent years because the Canada Employment Insurance Commission believed the resignations were voluntary and did not review all solutions before resigning.

Choices that are pointless in the eyes of Alexie, who believes the difficulties surrounding her condition have been completely ignored.

“I think I should have been entitled to unemployment. I didn’t leave because I wanted to take advantage of unemployment, but because I wasn’t doing well. And I don’t think it should be like that,” says the bachelor’s degree in business administration. “The holes in the net are too big and I fell straight into them. Nobody should have to go through something like this, I wanted things to change for people with autism. »

victory in court

She decided to fight all the way to the Canadian Social Security Court, which eventually ruled in her favor in a detailed July 28 decision.

“It was fair that the appellant voluntarily resigned from her job because of ‘working conditions that endanger her health or safety,'” wrote Normand Morin in his 38-page judgment. “In its analysis, the Commission obfuscates the content of a very detailed report, written in March 2020 by a doctor of psychology, relating specifically to the applicant’s mental state in relation to the fact that she had an autism spectrum disorder suffers. ” he continues.

Olivier Gentil, Managing Director of Action Employment Kamouraska, represented Alexie Plourde. He hopes this decision will give a boost to other autistic Canadians who are struggling at work. “If you are requesting regulatory review of a decision, it will be much easier to put forward the same arguments to proxies to get the decision passed. »

“We will be able to rely on something that has legal value. “It’s a big step forward,” he believes.

However, Mr. Gentil points out that receiving an autism diagnosis, accessing psychosocial follow-up and having the necessary medical records on hand can be difficult. “Anyone who has no access to a diagnosis due to a lack of services will not be able to assert their rights in the same way,” he says.

On the part of the Quebec Federation of Autism, we are pleased with the decision and hope that the message will be passed on to those responsible. “It’s well documented and provides a good understanding of the issues that people with autism can face in the workplace,” said the organization’s executive director, Lili Plourde. “It can actually be very helpful for other autistic people in the same situation. »

There aren’t many decisions like this – and going to court can be stressful and involve long delays,” says Jérémie Dhavernas, a lawyer at Mouvement Action-Chômage, who has represented autistic people on a number of occasions. “There is always a lot of educational work to be done among the officers. You have to explain reality well and the decision depends on the person you meet,” he says.

Difficulty finding a job

Finding a job is difficult for people with autism, the Canadian Autism Alliance points out. According to a 2020 nationwide survey, 33% of people with autism reported having a job, compared to 79% of people affected by some type of disability.

“Many companies want to get involved in the inclusion of people with disabilities,” notes Jonathan Lai, Managing Director of Allianz. “But it’s not just about hiring people, it’s also about how we can support them professionally, to help them grow in the workplace, to help them feel comfortable and to address their needs,” explains he.

He notes that his organization is currently working with Ottawa to develop a national autism strategy that includes an economic component that could lead to systemic change. “We hope that the government will continue to respond, listen and develop appropriate policies in such cases. »

Contacted by The duty, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission responded by email that it is “currently reviewing the decision.” “We are unable to comment on the specifics of this appointment,” a spokesman for Employment and Social Development Canada wrote. “Each file is unique and treated individually. The Commission cannot comment on the details of a specific file. »

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Jordan Johnson

Award-winning entrepreneur. Baconaholic. Food advocate. Wannabe beer maven. Twitter ninja.

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