B.C. Human Rights Tribunal maintains anonymity of transgender complainant over objections of respondent

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      Normally, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rulings list the names of the complainant and respondent.

      But on August 24, tribunal member Emily Ohler upheld an application from a transgender woman to keep her identity secret.

      "In her Anonymization Application, the Complainant explains that she migrated to Canada as a refugee to escape persecution in her country of origin on the basis of her identity as a transgender woman," Ohler wrote in her decision. "She asserts and the Respondent does not dispute that in her country of origin, being a transgender person 'is not generally accepted in society and one can face grave threats and violence both from one's family and from the wider community as a result.' "

      The respondent, Life Labs B.C. LP, opposed the application to limit disclosure of her name, claiming the risks were "unduly magnified and overstated".

      The company argued that the complainant "provides no facts in support of her suggestion that her life and health and even that of her family in her home country could be put in jeopardy".

      The complainant has alleged that Life Labs B.C. LP discriminated against her regarding employment on the basis of sex and gender identity.

      Ohler's decision only addressed the anonymization application.

      The allegations of discrimination have not been proven because Ohler did not deal with the merits of the complaint.

      Her ruling indicated that the complainant has revealed her gender status to one brother. The complainant's country of origin was not disclosed.

      "She generally does not use social media to avoid anyone in the Community recognizing her which, she says, could jeopardize the life and health of herself and possibly her family in her country of origin," Ohler wrote. "She asserts further that even if she and her family were not subjected to violence, her family would be 'in complete shock' to learn of her transgender identity."

      The complainant also maintained that this would not be a good way to "come out" to them.

      Life Labs B.C. LP pointed out in one of its submissions that the complainant's gender identification is already known by one family member. The company also highlighted the word "generally" with regard to social media use, noting that it hasn't been completely avoided.

      In addition, Life Labs B.C. LP claimed that a supervisor stated that the complainant had revealed her name and prior career in her country of origin to a client from that country. Moreover, the two allegedly made arrangements to meet after work.

      But these arguments failed to persuade Ohler.

      The tribunal member concluded that the complainant's "privacy interest outweighs the public interest" in identifying her.

      Therefore, the complainant will be referred to as the "employee" in this case.

      However, Ohler added that there will be an opportunity for either party to revisit this order when the discrimination complaint is heard.