The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently ordered reinstatement with full back pay plus $20,000 in damages to a former employee of a Health Authority who alleged the termination of her employment without cause was tainted by gender discrimination.
The Complainant, a female security guard, was terminated without cause, purportedly as a result of workplace gossiping, negativity and “poor professional deportment”. Notwithstanding these allegations, the employer provided her with severance pay and a positive letter of reference. The Complainant filed a human rights complaint, alleging she had been terminated because she was perceived to be a “trouble maker”. She had been very vocal in her efforts to be treated with respect and to access the same opportunities as the male employees in the department where she worked. In addition, she made an internal complaint of discrimination pursuant to the employer’s policy. However, the employer’s investigation failed to substantiate her allegations.
The Tribunal reviewed the employer’s discipline records and determined that the Complainant’s workplace conduct was addressed differently than that of her male co-workers. The Tribunal noted that male officers were ordinarily treated with fairness and a degree of leniency. The Complainant, on the other hand, was not. Male employees had been given the opportunity to resign when facing termination. The Complainant was not given that option. The Tribunal also found that gossiping was common in the workplace but the Complainant was the first person terminated for that conduct.
The Tribunal accepted that the Complainant was treated differently on the basis of her sex. As the employer’s view of the Complainant as a “trouble maker” could not be meaningfully separated from her gender, the employer was found to have improperly discriminated against her.
The Tribunal ordered that the Complainant be reinstated with full back pay. The employer was also ordered to hire a facilitator for six months to assist in the Complainant’s reintegration to the workforce. In addition, the Complainant received an award of $20,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self respect.
This decision reinforces the importance for employers to be able to demonstrate consistency in the disciplinary process when appearing before administrative tribunals.