Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
A recent decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is reflective of the remedy available to an employee who has been treated adversely due to a human rights violation.
The applicant had been hired as a production technology specialist with a manufacturer of wind turbines. She was soon promoted to a management position on the company’s planning team. She was also a native Vietnamese speaker and assisted other employees with translation duties.
While three months’ pregnant, she experienced related medical issues, originally seeking ten days’ medical leave and then reduced hours. Her boss replied by stating that she was “not like other Vietnamese” and that she would be terminated should she insist on accommodated working hours.
The applicant continued working regular hours for fear of termination. Five months later, suffering from further pregnancy complications, she went on sick leave, which was followed by maternity leave.
When she returned to work, she was referenced as a “stupid Vietnamese woman” and harassed and intimidated. Eight months later, she ceased work based on a toxic work environment and the company’s refusal to pay her a bonus and raise, as had been given to her colleagues.
The case was successful. She was awarded compensation for her bonus and raise in the sum of $16,400 and lost wages until she found a new position of $18,500 in addition to damages for humiliation of $25,000.
A Contrary View
This does not mean that pregnancy is “hands-off” defence. If the employer can show that there is a legitimate business reason to terminate, it remains possible to terminate a pregnant employee without violating human rights law.
A recent decision considered this issue. In this case, the employee was terminated when she was three months’ pregnant, a fact of which the company was aware. The employer successfully showed the Tribunal that there were legitimate performance issues which led to the termination decision and that the pregnancy was not even an influencing factor.
If you are facing adverse treatment due to a human rights violation, such as pregnancy, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or medical disability, to name the popular grounds, get legal advice and learn of your rights.
Contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation