Bell dis­crim­i­nated against sick woman: tri­bunal

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

TORONTO — The Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal says Bell Canada dis­crim­i­nated against a se­ri­ously ill woman by forc­ing her to vi­o­late her doc­tor’s or­ders and go to a store to ac­quire a cell­phone.

Linda Mills of Lon­don, Ont., was bedrid­den and re­cov­er­ing from both chemo­ther­apy and a stroke in July 2014.

The tri­bunal de­ci­sion says Mills wanted to ac­quire a phone and ac­ti­vate it the same day, adding Bell Canada only of­fered that ser­vice in­store to peo­ple who could present photo ID.

Mills was un­der doc­tor’s or­ders to stay home due to her com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem, so her son tried to col­lect the phone on her be­half.

The de­ci­sion says Bell sales staff re­fused to ac­count for these cir­cum­stances, forc­ing Mills to vi­o­late her doc­tor’s in­struc­tions in or­der to pick up the phone she needed as a safety mea­sure, given her ill­ness.

The tri­bunal found Bell dis­crim­i­nated against Mills on the grounds of dis­abil­ity and or­dered the com­pany to make its poli­cies more accommodating within the next six months.

Bell must also pay Mills $10,000 plus in­ter­est as com­pen­sa­tion.

Bell’s poli­cies stated that cus­tomers hop­ing for a cell­phone with same-day ac­ti­va­tion had to present them­selves in store and present photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Bell con­tended its poli­cies were nec­es­sary to pre­vent fraud.

Ed­ward Lustig wrote in the tri­bunal de­ci­sion. “It took her over an hour to get ready and be driven to the mall and moved by wheel­chair into the store in or­der to get the phone and be vis­ually iden­ti­fied in the store. Once in the store, the process took no more than five min­utes.”

Lustig added, “Con­trary to Bell’s sub­mis­sions, I find the fact that Ms. Mills did ul­ti­mately at­tend in per­son at the store had a neg­a­tive im­pact on her as it caused her great dif­fi­culty, was dan­ger­ous to her health and con­trary to the med­i­cal ad­vice of her doc­tor.”

Lustig or­dered Bell to change its poli­cies to en­sure peo­ple in Mills’s po­si­tion would be able to ac­quire a phone with same-day ac­ti­va­tion with­out ap­pear­ing in per­son.

He none­the­less called Bell a “so­cially re­spon­si­ble” com­pany that cares about its cus­tomers.

Bell spokesper­son Nathan Gib­son said the com­pany is work­ing to im­ple­ment the changes called for in Lustig’s de­ci­sion.

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