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Human rights commission upholds dismissal of discrimination complaint by former VP of sales at Cleantek Industries

by HR Law Canada

The Alberta Human Rights Commission upheld the dismissal of a human rights complaint filed by the former vice-president of global sales at Cleantek Industries, a Calgary-based green tech firm.

The complaint, dismissed by the Commission’s Director, alleged discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of family status, gender, mental disability, and physical disability, as per section 7 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

PTSD and remote work arrangements

The vice-president’s tenure at Cleantek, beginning in 2015, became tumultuous following the termination of her husband, the former CEO, and subsequent internal investigations. In November 2019, the VP, who claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was initially accommodated with remote work arrangements. However, this accommodation ceased when her husband was terminated, and she was placed on leave.

In 2020, after she failed to return to work, she was terminated for allegedly misusing a company credit card and other misconduct, as revealed in a third-party investigation. The VP challenged her termination, claiming inadequate accommodation during her employment and flaws in the internal investigation.

No link between termination, human rights

The Director’s initial decision to dismiss the complaint was based on a lack of evidence linking her termination with any protected characteristic under the Human Rights Act. Despite the VP’s request for review, the Commission found no new relevant evidence to support her claims. The Commission noted the absence of any connection between her protected characteristics and her termination, underscoring that mere assertions were insufficient to establish discrimination.

The ruling emphasized the Commission’s role in determining whether complaints have a reasonable prospect of success, with a focus on whether the complainant experienced adverse impact due to protected characteristics.

The Commission agreed that while Cleantek Industries Inc. might not have perfectly managed the termination from an employment law perspective, there was no foundation to claim discrimination based on protected characteristics.

“It may be that from an employment law perspective the complainant has some argument for breach of contract with respect to how she was terminated,” it said. “But in my view, the allegations that bias due to family status or any other protected characteristic was a factor, are without foundation in the information provided and are simply bald assertions.”

For more information, see Curlett v Cleantek Industries Inc., 2024 AHRC 2 (CanLII).

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