Terminating a pregnant employee is not always contrary to Human Rights Legislation
The BC Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the complaint of a woman who was terminated after the employer found out that she was pregnant. Normally you would expect that a termination in these circumstances would be contrary to the BC Human Rights Code as the Code protects employees from being treated differently due to pregnancy. However, in this particular case there was more to the story.
The complainant had discovered that she was pregnant prior to starting her first day on her new job with a law firm. Rather than disclosing the pregnancy, she waited to tell the employer. When she did tell the employer she was dishonest about when she found out about the pregnancy. The law firm dismissed her when they found out the truth. In applying to dismiss the Complaint against them, the law firm stated that her employment was not terminated on the basis of the pregnancy but, rather, was terminated because she lied on the issue of when she became pregnant, thereby destroying the firm’s confidence in how she might behave in the future should her performance be challenged.
The Tribunal dismissed the complaint, concluding as follows:
I would certainly expect the Tribunal member hearing this matter would be prepared to accept that the fabrication which Ms. Opp appears to have engaged in respecting how she learned of her pregnancy, and the timing of her actual knowledge of the pregnancy, could present serious concerns to an employer, particularly where that employer is a law firm. It seems likely to me that the Tribunal would accept at a hearing of this matter that MLC has provided a reasonable, non-discriminatory explanation for the decision to terminate Ms. Opp’s employment.
This decision demonstrates that although the Code protects against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, it does not provide a “shield” during pregnancy. A pregnant employee can still be terminated, the pregnancy just cannot be a factor in the decision to terminate.
You can read the full text of the decision here.