Friday, December 21, 2007

There's Ignorant, Then There's Google Ignorant

Some years ago, quality analyst Paul Lane was hired by ADGA Consultants, a well known Ottawa firm with a strong grip on the lucrative business of supplying smart heads to the federal government at a 30% premium over their actual value.

Three days later, Paul Lane informed ADGA that he suffered from bipolar disorder, often known as manic depression. He was immediately fired.

An Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (yes, them, of all people) ruled in October of this year that Mr. Lane was improperly dismissed and awarded him $80,000 in damages. ADGA is appealing this decision in court and today on the CBC their lawyer, one Stephen Bird, explained why.

Apparently, when Mr. Lane informed ADGA of his condition, they immediately researched it. You might think, for a powerful government consulting corporation, that this meant they hired a doctor, or even spoke to Mr. Lane's own doctor. But no, according to Mr. Bird, ADGA researched bipolar disorder 'on the internet'. Well geez, that's the way to get reliable information on something as misunderstood as mental illness. After a quick Google, then, ADGA fires Mr. Lane.

Interestingly, a number of expert witnesses testified before the OHRT on Mr. Lane's behalf. Mr. Stephen Bird discounts their testimony because they didn't know Mr. Lane. Of course, Google knew Mr. Lane and the details of his condition, when ADGA based their decision to fire him on that 'research'. ADGA knew enough about Mr. Lane to hire him - the fact that he got there should count for something. And guess what? He's now doing that quality analyst's job somewhere else, apparently without difficulty.

Here's a thought. Suppose everyone at ADGA who has or has ever had a diagnosed mental illness stopped work after the holidays. Suppose everyone in Canada who was in that situation stopped working. Just where do you think that might leave the country, the economy and your daily life, Mr. Stephen Bird? Because guess what? You don't know who we're talking about. You don't know that the barista preparing your latte is bipolar. You don't know that the nurse giving you your flu shot is depressed. You don't know that the CEO of that major corporation you just bought stock in was in hospital for stress related reasons a while back.

What we do know, however, is that there is a high correlation between disorders such as bipolar disorder and individuals of high intelligence, creativity, talent and achievement. We do know that Mr. Stephen Bird and his ADGA cronies would have fired most of the world's great artists and composers, many of the great inventors and innovators.

What ADGA did will deter anyone from ever being honest about their illness. What ADGA has done sets back the cause of the mentally ill in this country by years. What ADGA has done is ignorant, stupid, pathetic and harmful. And Mr. Stephen Bird's ignorance and stupidity will only encourage other ignorant and stupid people.

Recently we've seen a whole lot of abuse of the Human Rights Tribunals of this country. But here is a case that is precisely the kind of case they were created to address and here is a case where we are all better off because they were there. Mr. Stephen Bird should stop Googling and start learning, and the Human Rights Tribunals should stop rolling over so Richard Warman can rub their bellies and get back to fighting the injustice and ignorance that really does need correcting.