Kearlsey Case Study

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Kearsley v. City of St. Catharines
Ontario Human Rights Commission, April 2002

1.Summarize the facts of this case.

Tony Kearsley applies for a position as a firefighter with the City of St. Catharines and was accepted on condition that he were to pass a medical examination by a doctor specified by the city. However, during the medical exam the doctor discovered that Kearsley had an atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and refused to pass him. Kearsley took it upon himself to consult a medical specialist who advised him that his condition would indeed not affect his ability to perform his job as a firefighter. Kearsley then filed a complaint against the city with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. At the Commissions Bored of Inquiry hearing, the doctor who had originally examined Kearsley testified that atrial fibrillation led to increased risk for stroke meaning his heart could fail to pump sufficient blood to his organs during the extreme conditions that come with firefighting. The Board of Inquiry called a medical expert in atrial fibrillation. The expert testified that the increased risk for stroke in someone of Kearsley’s age was inconsequential. The expert further testified that there was no increased risk for heart failure in someone like Kearsley because he was otherwise in good health. Meanwhile, after Kearsley got turned down by the St. Catharines fire department, Kearsley had become a firefighter in the City of Hamilton, achieving the rank of first-class firefighter in October 2001.

2.Why did the Board of Inquiry rule in Kearsley’s favour?

The Board of Inquiry ruled in Kearsley’s favour because they came to the conclusion that Mr. Tony Kearsley had in fact suffered discrimination. The Board noted that it would have been the City of St. Catharines responsibility to seek an expert opinion when confronted with a medical condition such as that found in Kearsley. The Board also indicated that this was the procedure...
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