The Human Rights Tribunal recently found that Prince George Ford (“Ford”) discriminated against new mom Mellissa LaFleche based on sex and family status contrary to the section 13 of the Human Rights Code.
While on maternity leave, employee Ms. LaFleche went to her employer, Ford for a meeting about her return to work. It was an informal meeting and Ford had not thought through what it was going to say. There was conflicting evidence about what Ms. LaFleche was told at that meeting, but the Tribunal found:
- “the clear inference from this discussion is that, at best, Ms. Callaghan [the woman filling in for Ms. LaFleche during her maternity leave] would retain marketing manager duties and Ms. LaFleche’s role would significantly change”, (paragraph 44).
- “It was clear from the surrounding discussion that [Ms. LaFleche] would not be returning to the same duties and role…” (paragraph 45).
- LaFleche felt humiliated, distressed and nervous about money and lost sleep, her appetite, a sense of security and enjoyment of maternity leave (paragraph 50).
Ford told Ms. LaFleche that it would follow up with her after the meeting about what position or duties it would have for her on her return, but it did not.
The Tribunal considered whether Ford had constructively dismissed Ms. LaFleche – constructive dismissal is a form of termination of employment that occurs when an employer fundamentally unilaterally changes the terms of employment – and concluded Ford had. It ordered Ford to pay Ms. LaFleche significant wage loss damages (about $70,000 less about $3,750 already paid to her) and injury to dignity damages ($12,000). Notably, the award for wage loss damages included both actual wage losses of about 7.5 months wages (about $40,000) and loss of maternity and parental benefits during Ms. LaFleche’ next year long maternity leave (about $30,000).
- Moms / New Parents: Being told by your employer that they like your replacement better and you’ll have different duties on your return to work is discrimination.
- Employers: absent reasons totally unrelated to the employee’s leave, you need to return employees to the same position they held before going on leave. Think carefully about what you say to employees on leave and about how they could take it.
This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information. Every situation must be considered on its own facts. Need legal advice? Contact us by phone at 604 535-7063 or email [email protected].