Tribunal proceeding with Penticton discrimination complaint

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal denied an application from a non-profit to dismiss the complaint

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has decided to proceed with a file against a local non-profit despite an application to dismiss the complaint.

Evelyn Travis claims the Penticton and Area Access Society discriminated against her in her employment at the non-profit based on her physical disability.

However, the Access Society filed an application to have the complaint dismissed, claiming it had made a “reasonable offer,” later specified as a $2,500 payment, according to a decision published online Friday afternoon.

Travis was employed by the society from February 2014 to August 2016, working 20 hours a week as an advocacy outreach worker, also working part-time at another employer at the time, according to the document.

On April 30, 2016, Travis sustained various injuries from a motorcycle accident, described as “concussion-like symptoms, ankle sprain, torn knee ligament, injuries to her neck and various other soft tissue injuries.”

In a May, Travis was told they would be holding her position for her until Aug. 10 without pay.

Travis began gradually returning to work, about four hours per week between both jobs on the advice of her doctor, between June 24 and July 15, and then eight hours a week after that.

On Aug. 10, the society said in a termination letter that Travis “could not give us a return date yet. While this is understandable we need to provide more stability regarding our service.”

Travis claims her termination violates section 13 of the Human Rights Code, which bars refusing employment based on a variety of factors, including physical disability.

Barbara Korenkiewicz, a member of the Human Rights Tribunal, wrote that she was not satisfied that the Access Society’s offer fully addressed the allegations against it.

“First, I observe that the settlement offer does not confirm that the alleged discrimination will stop and not be repeated in the future. Rather, the Society says that it recognizes Ms. Travis must receive redress for the ‘perceived’ discrimination she ‘feels’ she suffered,” Korenkiewicz wrote.

She added that an assertion the society did an internal audit of the termination policy and internal procedures, it did not elaborate on the audit.

“In particular, I am not persuaded that the Society understands the full extent of what the duty to accommodate an employees disability to the point of undue hardship requires.”

Korenkiewicz said she also was not satisfied with the amount offered to Travis.

“The purpose of compensation … is to restore a complainant, to the extent possible, to the position they would ave been in had the discrimination not occurred,” she wrote.

That would mean, on top of the costs allocated to damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, Travis would be entitled to lost wages if she is successful in her complaint.

The society also argued a payment greater than $2,500 would “severely limit its mandate, result in one of its programs being shut down and take resources away from the vulnerable population it serves,” Korenkiewicz wrote.

“While I appreciate that the Society does important work assisting vulnerable members of our society, the purposes of the Code are to address and remedy discrimination,” Korenkiewicz said. “In that regard, the Society’s obligations under the Code are no different than those of any other employer.”

Korenkiewicz denied the application to dismiss the complaint, but suggested the parties work through the Human Rights Tribunal’s mediation services to reach a mutual agreement.

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