Blog Post #399 – Laid-Off Pregnant Worker Granted Award

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

More than a year after it first heard the case, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has awarded about $26,000 to a British Columbia woman who argued her employer discriminated against her because she was pregnant.

From August, 2005 to April, 2006, Hailey de Lisser was employed part-time at Traveland Leisure Vehicles Ltd., an RV retail, service and rental operation based in Langley, British Columbia, notes the January 26 ruling by tribunal member Diane MacLean.

In early 2006, de Lisser’s twin sister, Heather Ouimet, who was employed as a full-time warranty clerk, announced her pregnancy and that she had plans to take maternity leave that summer. De Lisser, who had some experience with warranty operations, was asked if she would like to fill in during her sister’s leave, which she accepted pending agreement on day-care arrangements.

But the offer was rescinded and another person hired when de Lisser announced in March, 2006 that she too was pregnant. Those testifying on behalf of Traveland Leisure Vehicles said someone was needed to work full-time for all of Ouimet’s leave. Shortly thereafter, de Lisser was laid off from her part-time job due to “lack of work.”

In her decision, MacLean writes the company’s prerequisite that any new warranty clerk work a full year was not a bona fide occupational requirement since company managers had “jumped to conclusions about Ms. de Lisser’s flexibility regarding hours of work.” The ruling also notes the company was able to find another competent warranty clerk within a few days and “provided no evidence that they could not have found a similarly qualified person in August of that year,” when de Lisser would have taken leave.

For the breach of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code, MacLean awarded de Lisser almost $9,000 in wages “based on the assumption she would have worked until August 20, 2006,” plus about $12,000 for maternity leave and $5,000 for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

De Lisser’s lawyer, Scott Marcinkow, reports his client was happy with the result, although she was unprepared for the time it took for a final decision to be reached. “This was an important case to show that an employer is required to take some steps to accommodate a pregnancy, which is significant.”

Dale Howes, co-owner of Traveland Leisure Vehicles, suggests that the ruling may have lasting consequences. “We were offering a job that had a specific one-year window, and the fact is the ruling has indicated that anybody else would have to commit to that, [but] if you’re pregnant, you don’t.”

Robyn Durling, a spokesperson for the B.C. Human Rights Coalition, says sex (pregnancy) complaints are among the most common filed in the province. The tribunal’s 2007-2008 annual report notes such cases accounted for 14 per cent of all employment decisions.

My opinion

Are you not glad that the times have changed towards women, especially pregnant women? Not that long ago, women could not be guaranteed their jobs if they left to go on ‘Maternity’ leave. This is the way things are today.

I do not know about the rights of the pregnant women in your part of the world but please consider that the charter of rights, at least in Canada, protects discrimination of pregnant women. I hope it is the same in your area.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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