Ontario Human Rights Tribunal awards $35,000 to fired pregnant employee

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario recently ordered a Mississauga beauty salon to pay over $35,000 in general damages and lost wages and benefits to the young woman. The tribunal also ordered the company to implement an accommodation of pregnant employees policy. Ontario's Human Rights Code specifically protects pregnant women from discrimination under the ground of sex.

Minutes after revealing her pregnancy, Complainant Jessica Macial  was told to pack her bags and go. Maciel could not believe her ears. With a business diploma in hand, Maciel had been hired as a full-time receptionist at a Mississauga salon, where she was assured there was room for growth in the company and excited about her first full-time job.

"I was so shocked that this would happen to me in the 21st century," said Maciel. "While I am grateful that the tribunal has ordered compensation, I am particularly glad that the company must create a policy to protect other women. This should not happen to anybody else. Employees need to know their rights and employers should know the law."

Kate Sellar, Maciel's lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre commented, "Unfortunately we continue to see hundreds of these cases of women turned away from work because of pregnancy."

Continued Sellar, "It's hard to believe we're still fighting for the rights of women to have a job and a family. We hope this legal decision provides a reminder to Ontario's employers."

Vice Chair Naomi Overend of the Human Rights Tribunal found that Maciel's pregnancy was "likely the only factor, in the respondents' decision to terminate her employment." Adjudicator Overend continued in her written decision, "I am mindful of the vulnerability of the applicant. She was young, just out of school, and coping with an unplanned pregnancy. This was to have been her first full-time job, which she testified she was very excited about, making the experience that followed that much more distressing."

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre receives approximately 40 calls per week from pregnant women concerned about losing their jobs or being told not to return to work after their maternity leave.

Learn more about the centre by visiting www.hrlsc.on.ca/en/index.htm