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Human rights complaint against Office of the Premier of British Columbia deferred pending outcome of civil case

by HR Law Canada

A human rights complaint against the Office of the Premier of British Columbia has been deferred for up to one year pending the outcoming of a civil action.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal issued the ruling in a complaint filed by SD, a former worker who alleged employment discrimination due to physical and mental disability.

SD’s case, initiated in August 2021, argued that her employer did not provide necessary accommodations for her disability, subsequently leading to the termination of her employment.

In response, the defendants requested the deferral of the tribunal’s proceedings, citing an ongoing civil lawsuit filed by SD in the British Columbia Supreme Court that they argue covers analogous facts and concerns, raising the potential for inconsistent outcomes and unnecessary duplication of efforts.

Despite opposition from SD, who argued that the civil court is not equipped to address the specific issues raised in her complaint to the Tribunal, the Tribunal has opted to grant the deferral. This decision is based on the premise that the civil action could appropriately address the complaint’s substance, following precedents where wrongful dismissal actions have been deemed capable of doing so.

Employment history

SD’s history with the Province, where she was employed since June 1993, includes an extended medical leave that began in 2016 and subsequent termination of her long-term disability benefits in 2018.

Her attempts to reintegrate into the workplace with restricted hours were unsuccessful, and she was informed in early 2020 that her former position had been eliminated. Her employment was officially terminated in mid-August 2020, with the Province offering a settlement that SD did not accept, leading her to pursue legal action.

Judicial economy

The Tribunal underscored the importance of judicial economy, highlighting the legislative intent to prevent the squandering of resources on potentially duplicative processes. Furthermore, they stipulated that deferral is not a permanent measure; the complaint may be revisited post the civil suit to ensure the issues have been suitably resolved.

The complaint has been deferred for a year or until the conclusion of the civil lawsuit, whichever occurs first. The Tribunal has also noted that should the civil court dismiss the claims concerning the failure to accommodate SD’s disabilities, she may request to lift the deferral.

For more information, see Doyle v. BC Office of the Premier and another, 2023 BCHRT 175 (CanLII)

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