Home Featured BC Hydro loses bid to dismiss discrimination claim from former worker over speech impediment, mental health issues

BC Hydro loses bid to dismiss discrimination claim from former worker over speech impediment, mental health issues

by HR Law Canada

An application by BC Hydro to dismiss a discrimination complaint by a former employee involving a speech impediment and mental health issues has been rejected by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

The move paves the way for a full hearing, though the Tribunal encouraged both parties to take advantage of its mediation services.

I.C., who worked temporarily for BC Hydro in 2018, alleged discrimination based on his disabilities after his contract was terminated early, and he was not rehired for another position despite repeated inquiries.

He claimed to have faced harassment at work due to his speech impediment and mental health disability, which he says was not adequately addressed by the company.

BC Hydro contested the allegations, arguing that I.C.’s employment ended due to the completion of the project he was hired for and not for discriminatory reasons. The utility also applied for dismissal of the complaint on several grounds, including its belief that the complaint was filed late and that I.C. could not establish a connection between the termination of his employment and his disabilities.

The Tribunal’s decision to deny the application for dismissal was based on several key findings. Firstly, it was determined that the complaint, received by the Tribunal on Sept. 4, 2020, was not excessively delayed given the circumstances, particularly considering I.C.’s mental health condition, which significantly affected his ability to function and file the complaint sooner.

Significant to the Tribunal’s considerations were the detailed accounts of harassment faced by I.C., including incidents where coworkers mocked his speech impediment. Despite reporting these incidents, I.C. felt that BC Hydro’s response was insufficient and did not prevent further harassment.

The Tribunal noted, “There is evidence that the Manager and a foreperson spoke to (I.C.’s) co-workers about the need to be respectful to (I.C.). However, there is no evidence about what was said to the co-workers, or how they responded, or how BC Hydro determined that simply speaking to the co-workers was adequate to ensure the harassment would not continue.”

Furthermore, the Tribunal found it pertinent that BC Hydro’s Code of Conduct, which mandates support for individuals reporting harassment, was seemingly not fully adhered to in this case. Specifically, there was “no evidence that anyone at BC Hydro notified the Ethics Office about (I.C.’s) harassment allegation, as its Code of Conduct policy recommends in cases of alleged harassment.”

In concluding the decision to not dismiss the case, the Tribunal underscored the importance of a thorough examination of the facts at a full hearing, highlighting the potential for I.C. to establish a link between the alleged discrimination and the actions taken by BC Hydro.

For more information, see Coates v. BC Hydro, 2024 BCHRT 73 (CanLII).

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