By CBC News
February 12, 2023
An independent human rights board of inquiry has found a woman who said she was fired as a result of complications from pregnancy was discriminated against.
Donald Murray, chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry, released his decision on Feb. 7.
The identity of the woman and identifying information about the respondent and witnesses were not included in the decision for privacy reasons.
The woman, identified as A.B. in the decision, was terminated on May 6, 2019 from her position as a paralegal with a law firm identified as C.B.
She filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that August.
According to the decision, the woman, who was pregnant, informed the company on April 16, 2019 that she had to terminate the pregnancy on medical advice.
Following her discussion with the company, the decision says, she was given a record of employment for employment insurance giving April 12 as her last day worked, with a return to work date of April 29.
The pregnancy was terminated on April 23.
The woman developed an infection arising from the termination that required antibiotics.
She informed the company on April 29 that her doctor required her to take another week off, with a return date of May 6.
New return date
According to the decision, the company issued an amended record of employment to the Canada Revenue Agency with the new return date.
On May 5, she informed the company that she would not be able to return to work the next day as her mental health was “not in a very good place.”
A company representative, identified in the decision as Ms D, responded on May 6 indicating that she had already had three weeks of medical/bereavement leave and the company could not keep her position open for her.
The company also cited other work issues in its decision.
She was terminated that day with her final pay period ending on May 17.
In his conclusion, Murray said the termination of a pregnancy “can result in a continuation of the physical, physiological, and psychological experiences for the person who had become pregnant.”
Murray said the work that the company relied on the complainant to do could have been done, and was done, in her absence by lawyers at the firm.
Murray determined that the other work issues cited by the company did not constitute just cause for termination.
He said the termination was based predominantly on the complainant not being able to work because of the “disabling effects of her terminated pregnancy.”
“The decision made about Ms B’s employment based on that reason had the effect of imposing a disadvantage upon her based on a protected characteristic (sex, including pregnancy and pregnancy-related illness) which I have found includes recovery from pregnancy,” Murray concluded.
A release issued Feb. 10 said the parties have reached a settlement and the terms are confidential.
Originally posted by CBC News on February 12, 2023.