A Sooke woman who claims she faced discrimination as a result of a mental disability has taken her complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Thrifty Foods denies the allegations.
The woman worked at Thrifty’s for six years before taking a medical leave of absence in June 2016 after a visit to her doctor resulted in a mental disability diagnosis, according to tribunal documents.
The leave lasted 2½ months, but on her return to work she was demoted. Other actions by her employer, she said, gave her little choice but to resign her position in September 2016.
In her complaint to the tribunal, the employee alleged her treatment was linked to Thrifty Foods’ staff’s perception of her as a person with a mental disability.
The tribunal’s decision did not provide the Sooke resident with the condemnation of Thrifty Foods that she’d sought, but also stopped short of completely exonerating the company.
Although the decision did dismiss the charge against the company and a human resource staff member named in the action, their actions were criticized by tribunal member Pamela Murray.
“Unilaterally removing an employee’s duties on the day they return from a medical leave would usually need to be part of an agreed return-to-work plan or [be] reasonably necessary before it could be found to be non‐discriminatory. It is not, in any event, in my view part of ‘managing the employment relationship’ for an employer to remove job duties in the manner alleged in the materials,” Murray wrote.
Although the management style of the company was drawn into question by Murray’s comments, the charge of a human rights violation was not upheld against Thrifty Foods.
The same was not true for a supervisor named in the action.
He was characterized as the “directing mind” of the alleged discrimination and the tribunal held that the complaint against that supervisor could proceed to a future hearing to resolve the case.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body created by the B.C. Human Rights Code. It is responsible for accepting, mediating, and adjudicating human rights complaints and, although the Tribunal offers the parties to a complaint the opportunity to try to resolve the complaint through mediation, should that effort fail the complaint moves on to the hearing stage.