Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
The BC Human Rights Tribunal in Vancouver has awarded $36,000 in damages to a worker who was subjected to discrimination based on her disability.
The November 15 ruling follows a complaint filed by Linda Vernon, a former employee of a Dairy Queen franchise in 100 Mile House, British Columbia, who argued she had been fired based on her disability. Vernon, who has one arm, claimed her manager, Kelly Brown, harassed her because of Brown’s belief that Vernon’s disability limited her ability to do her job.
Vernon testified she heard rumours of her manager calling her a “one-armed bandit,” and charged that Brown would do things to make her job more difficult. Brown responded that there had been reports of Vernon taking extended breaks, not maintaining personal hygiene, stealing food from the workplace and threatening to undermine Brown’s authority as manager.
Vernon was terminated in May of 2009, an action that she argues was taken because of her complaint. Her termination notice states the dismissal was the result of a work shortage.
In her ruling, tribunal member Heather MacNaughton notes evidence submitted by Brown and the employer was not credible. The employees made Vernon’s “job more difficult by creating work that they knew she would find challenging. I find that they did so because of her disability,” MacNaughton writes.
In providing the employer with misleading information about Vernon, co-workers were guilty of harassment, she concluded. As such, the employer did not have cause to terminate Vernon. “Relying on that information, without any investigation of its accuracy, the employer decided to terminate Ms. Vernon.”
The former employee was awarded $21,060 in lost wages and $15,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. “This sense of self-worth is particularly important to disabled employees like Ms. Vernon who have had to overcome many hurdles in order to participate in the work force.”
Bill Chedore, national coordinator for the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance in Hamilton, Ontario, says employers need to ensure both managers and employees receive training on harassment and human rights. “They also have to have a system in place of training and retraining,” Chedore insists.
“To train somebody 10 years ago and think that’s all they have to do is just not the case,” he adds.
Discrimination, by any means, is a demeaning and disgusting betrayal of what the majority of us hold true. Most of us live by, or at least subscribe to, the golden rule. Kelly Brown needed a lesson in humility and in fundamental the same human rights that are practiced in places far less civilized than Canada. She should have known better. There by the Grace of God…
This report reached a part of me that remained dormant for a while. The fire burns once again. Please ensure that your voice be heard if this type of discrimination goes on at your workplace. A disabled worker should never face the issues they do today!
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Violence and Harassment’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.