Legal News

Dismissal of employee constitutes discrimination on the basis of religion

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that even though an employer had cause to dismiss an incompetent employee, the termination was discriminatory because the employee’s religion was a factor in the final decision.

The employee was a member of the Christian Churches of God, which required adherents not to work on lunar new moons. After five weeks of employment, the employee requested a day off in order to observe this holiday. The employer denied his request. The employer had allowed the same request four weeks earlier, but subsequently informed the employee no further holidays would be granted.

In the meantime, the employee’s work as a project coordinator was largely unsatisfactory. After four weeks, only 14 youths had signed up for his job training program, which was supposed to graduate 500 students in 12 months. The project was so unsuccessful that the employee’s staff, fearing the loss of their own jobs, alerted management.

When the employee’s request for the day off was rejected, he informed the employer in writing that he would be absent from work in order to “observe a religious Holy Day.” When the employee returned to work on the following day he was fired. His Record of Employment indicated that the reason for the employee’s dismissal was that he failed to pass his probation and took an unapproved day off.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled that, even though the employer had cause to terminate the complainant’s employment, his dismissal constituted religious discrimination because the employer considered the employee’s impromptu religious holiday when making the decision to fire him.

Derksen v. Myert Corps Inc. [2004] B.C.H.R.T.D. No. 57.