Company that dismissed pregnant B.C. employee ordered to pay $11,000
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has awarded $11,000 to a woman who was suddenly dismissed from her senior sales job the day after she told her employer she was pregnant.
Pauline Prabhjot Kooner-Rilcof filed a human-rights complaint alleging discrimination after she lost her job with BNA Smart Payment Systems Ltd. in September 2010.
Kooner-Rilcof was hired in May 2009 to work for the Ontario-based company, which provides debit and credit card payment-processing services to clients in Canada.
Working in a key sales position in B.C., she was repeatedly praised for her work and was promoted to a vice-president position a year after she started with the company.
In mid-September 2010, Kooner-Rilcof phoned company president Matthew Moore and told him she was pregnant and planned to take maternity leave in the coming months.
The next day, after consulting with a company lawyer, Moore phoned Kooner-Rilcof back and told her she was being let go and the company was closing its B.C. operations.
Moore denied the pregnancy was the reason for the dismissal, claiming the company faced financial difficulties and the decision to let Kooner-Rilcof go was a cost-cutting move.
Moore claimed the decision to end her employment was made before the pregnancy was announced but there had not yet been a chance to inform Kooner-Rilcof.
He also claimed he was not able to bring up the dismissal during the first phone call about the pregnancy given how happy a moment it was.
In a ruling issued August 2, the human-rights tribunal determined Moore and BNA Smart Payment Systems discriminated against Kooner-Rilcof by ending her employment.
“I find that BNA’s expansion into British Columbia was generating little revenue relative to expense, and BNA was looking to cut costs in Ontario and British Columbia,” tribunal member Robert Blasina wrote. “This is indicated by the employee terminations and the Company’s efforts to transform to a workforce of commission-sales representatives.”
“However, considering all the circumstances of the case, the Respondents have not provided a non-discriminatory explanation for terminating the Complainant’s employment as soon as they learned of her pregnancy.”
The human-rights tribunal ordered Moore and the company to pay Kooner-Rilcof $3,125 for lost wages and $8,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.