Home Opinion/Commentary Parq Vancouver plays winning hand in human rights case, provides blueprint on how to handle serious complaint

Parq Vancouver plays winning hand in human rights case, provides blueprint on how to handle serious complaint

by Todd Humber

I’ve written a lot of stories over the years about legal missteps by employers and the damages that can cause to workers, reputation, and the bottom line.

But every once in a while, I’ll stumble upon a case where the employer got it right — and not only isn’t punished, but is lauded for their approach.

Such was the case in a recent ruling by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal involving Parq Vancouver, a casino and resort, which was facing a serious complaint from one of its workers.

The case was initiated by R.S., a cage shift manager at Parq Vancouver, who suffered mockery and teasing by a colleague due to a disability-related speech impediment. R.S. was a survivor of a serious health condition, and a related surgery, that impacted her speech.

One of her co-workers — who was also a union steward — mocked and mimicked her speech in front of other staff. HR began an investigation into the matter.

R.S. was ultimately not satisfied with how the employer handled the complaint, but the Tribunal painted a different picture.  It noted that Parq took the claim seriously, conducted an investigation, concluded that the discrimination allegation was true — and that the offending worker had violated its workplace bullying and harassment policy.

The corporate playbook, too often filled with denials and defensive posturing, was ignored in this case.

Parq reprimanded the employee, confirmed the behaviour was “unacceptable,” and issued a final written warning that any future conduct of a similar nature would end in her termination. Notably, the union did not grieve this punishment. That’s because HR worked closely with the union in issuing the discipline to “ensure that all parties understood the seriousness with which Parq viewed this behaviour.”

Parq also required the perpetrator to apologize to R.S. The Tribunal called it a “fair, thorough, and timely workplace investigation” that was proportionate to the seriousness of the complaint.

Moreover, the company undertook comprehensive measures — such as revising policies and ramping up employee training to forestall similar issues in the future.

It is particularly notable that the Tribunal highlighted Parq’s actions as “reasonable and effective.”

Such language underscores that the measures taken were not just for show but were substantial enough to meet the standards of remedial action expected under the Human Rights Code.

The offered settlement to R.S., which included $4,000 and commitments to ensure a supportive return to work, was deemed reasonable by the Tribunal — despite the fact R.S. had refused it.

The settlement letter to her was well worded and empathetic. It acknowledged how upsetting the circumstances were and noted that “we cannot change what has happened, but we have carefully designed the terms set out below to address each of the concerns raised in your complaint.”

In dismissing the complaint, the Tribunal did not minimize the employee’s distress but affirmed the sufficiency of the employer’s proactive and reactive measures.

For employers and HR professionals, the lessons are clear: take every complaint seriously, act swiftly and thoughtfully, and engage in continuous improvement of workplace practices. Such actions not only comply with legal frameworks but also build a corporate culture that fosters trust and mutual respect.

Parq Vancouver’s handling of this unfortunate incident provides a blueprint for effective corporate response to discrimination and harassment. It illustrates that the path to maintaining a respectful workplace is built through genuine commitment to employee well-being, not merely compliance with legal obligations and lip-service.

For more information, see Salanguit v. Parq Vancouver and another, 2024 BCHRT 119 (CanLII).

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