B.C. WCAT worker’s age and disability human rights complaint paused pending outcome of arbitration

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A human rights complaint by a worker at B.C.’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT), alleging discrimination based on age and disability, has been put on hold pending the outcome of an arbitration hearing.

The worker, a former supervisor at WCAT, alleged discrimination against the tribunal and its director, KH. She filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

The allegations stem from an insistence that she work from the office, contradicting her physician’s advice to work from home due to medical conditions amid a virulent COVID variant. Additionally, she claimed that despite the lack of a fixed retirement age at WCAT, KH proposed she contemplate retirement due to her age and seniority.

WCAT, backed by KH, requested a deferment of the complaint in the wake of a grievance/arbitration proceeding, believing it more apt for assessing the complaint’s substance. The worker countered, expressing skepticism that the grievance process would adequately address her discrimination allegations.

The human rights tribunal decided in favour of deferring the complaint, citing significant overlaps between the grievance and the complaint regarding parties, subject matter, and facts. It was also noted that the grievance/arbitration hearing, scheduled for Feb. 5 and 6, 2024, would likely occur before the human rights tribunal could convene a separate hearing for the complaint.

The decision emphasized avoiding unnecessary duplication of proceedings and resource expenditure, both public and private. The arbitrator possesses the authority to grant remedies similar to those the Tribunal can provide under the Human Rights Code.

If either party confirms that human rights issues will not be pursued in the grievance process, or if the planned hearing does not proceed as scheduled, the worker can move to lift the deferral. WCAT has been instructed to update the Tribunal regarding the grievance/arbitration process’s status by January 2024.

For more information see Day v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal and another, 2023 BCHRT 95 (CanLII)