VANCOUVER—The University of British Columbia has been hit again with workplace controversy, as eight human rights complaints from six employees have been filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The Association of Administrative and Professional Staff that represents UBC employees, with roughly 4,500 members, alleges that its members were terminated or denied a promotion based on a disability or pregnancy. UBC has not admitted any wrongdoing, and the allegations have not yet been proven at the tribunal.

“Legally, the university has an obligation to accommodate disabled employees so that they can continue to thrive in the workplace,” Joey Hansen, executive director of AAPS, said in an interview Wednesday.

“However, at UBC, it seems that there are a number of instances where the university’s senior leadership has, in our view, discarded disabled employees as though they were broken office furniture.”

Hansen said the complaints were filed between May and August, but the incidents happened within the six months prior to the filing.

Although one human rights complaint was filed around discrimination due to pregnancy, Hansen said the association has heard from others with similar grievances.

“We heard from a number of pregnant employees that they were afraid to disclose their pregnancy to their supervisor and wanted to know how long they could wait before they had to disclose that because they worried that their supervisor would react poorly to them being pregnant.”

One of the cases involved a “significant” promotion being denied after the employee disclosed her pregnancy, he said. The members want to keep their identities private, he added.

Kurt Heinrich, senior director of UBC media relations, said the office takes “seriously any discrimination concerns” brought to its attention.

“The university works hard to ensure employees have access to innovative programs and benefits including staff housing programs, fitness facilities, daycare, retirement planning assistance and many others that make UBC an exceptional work environment.”

In June, the former chair of the UBC creative writing program Steven Galloway was awarded $167,000 in damages for statements that violated his privacy rights. The damages are in connection with two grievances filed after he was terminated in 2016 amid allegations of misconduct.

Hansen said the association would like the employees to be reinstated either to the same job or a comparable job elsewhere in the university. With the denied promotion case, the association also wants to see the employee get the position she was initially denied.


Originally posted on by Jenny Peng on October 4, 2018