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Tribunal finds no discrimination where there is a valid business reason for termination

June 3, 2024

A recent decision from the BC Human Rights Tribunal highlights that an employee will not be able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination where there is a compelling non-discriminatory reason for the termination.

Our office recently represented an automotive shop that faced a significant downturn in business in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, in April and May 2020 the shop’s owner laid off the two most junior technicians, including the complainant who had just returned from a short-term medical leave. Shortly thereafter, the complainant submitted his complaint to the Tribunal alleging he had been terminated because of a medical condition and/or because he had used his short-term disability benefits.

At the hearing, the respondents showed financial evidence that the shop experienced a significant decrease in income. The respondents’ witnesses also testified that between March and June 2020, the volume of work declined drastically, which resulted in there being no work for the two most junior technicians who were let go.

Ultimately, the Tribunal held that the complainant was unable to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The Tribunal dismissed the complaint. The Tribunal noted the evidence clearly showed there was a valid business reason for terminating the complainant.

The Tribunal’s decision is instructive for employers. It shows that an employee will not be able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination just because they were terminated shortly after returning from medical leave, if the employer can show a compelling/non-discriminatory business reason for terminating the employee. Nonetheless, employers should be mindful of any potential human rights issues prior to terminating employees and seek legal advice before terminating employees during or immediately after a medical leave. 

Expertise

Important Notice: The information contained in this Article is intended for general information purposes only and does not create a lawyer-client relationship. It is not intended as legal advice from Harper Grey LLP or the individual author(s), nor intended as a substitute for legal advice on any specific subject matter. Detailed legal counsel should be sought prior to undertaking any legal matter. The information contained in this Article is current to the last update and may change. Last Update: June 3, 2024.

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