Tribunal to hear alleged discrimination by Vancouver gym against gay fitness coach
Gay man Derek Bedry has alleged that he was fired by a Vancouver gym because of his sexual orientation and mental disability.
Unless Bedry and his former employer, Raincity Athletics, settle the issue among themselves, the matter will go to a hearing before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Tribunal member Jacqueline Beltgens has denied an application by Raincity to dismiss Bedry’s complaint against the gym and its manager and co-owner Simon Damborg.
“It is not disputed that Mr. Bedry is gay and that he suffers from a mental disability,” Beltgens wrote in her decision. “He says that, on several occasions, Mr. Damborg said things that were negative in regard to his sexual orientation, that the Respondents failed to accommodate his mental disability, and that his employment was terminated.”
“He says that his sexual orientation and his mental disability were a factor in these adverse consequences,” the tribunal member continued. “I am [persuaded] that Mr. Bedry has alleged facts which, if proven, could establish a violation of the [B.C. Human Rights] Code.”
Bedry was employed as a fitness coach with Raincity from early 2014 up to April 2017.
In her ruling, Beltgens made a narration of the submissions by the parties without establishing findings of fact.
According to Beltgens, Bedry claimed that during his employment, Damborg “made homophobic and misogynistic comments”.
Damborg allegedly said that he will “not hire anymore gay men because he was concerned that they would hit on him”.
The gym manager and co-owner also allegedly said that Raincity may have “too much gay representation and he maybe should hire some more straight males”.
In addition, Damborg allegedly said that “his life would be easier if he was gay because everyone would hit on him”.
“Mr. Bedry says that because of the environment in the Gym, he developed and was diagnosed with a mental disability,” Beltgens wrote in her ruling.
Moreover, Damborg allegedly made misogynistic comments about “women’s bodies and clothing, and speculated as to whether or not women at Raincity were sexually active”. He allegedly called women as “bitches”.
According to Beltgens’ narration, Bedry said that Damborg’s comments about women can have an “adverse impact on homosexual males who display feminine qualities”.
Raincity and Damborg denied Bedry’s allegations, claiming the former fitness coach was fired because of his “continued poor performance and inappropriate behaviour which resulted in a negative impact on Raincity’s clients, reputation and business”.
“The Respondents say that they received complaints regarding Mr. Bedry’s attitude towards clients,” Beltgens wrote. “They say that he offended them or made them feel uncomfortable, that he was overly critical, rude, unfriendly, unapproachable, erratic, abrasive, and used a disrespectful tone when interacting with staff and clients.”
In addition, the respondents also claimed that Bedry’s claims are “exaggerated or untrue”.
“The Respondents do not dispute that certain comments were made, but deny that Mr. Bedry was bullied by the comments,” according to Beltgens. “The Respondents assert that the comments were all intended to be lighthearted, and none of them were even directed at Mr. Bedry. They say that Mr. Damborg’s comments were not egregious, were isolated, and were intended to be innocently facetious.”
“They say that Mr. Bedry made similar jokes himself and referred to women as ‘bitches’ himself and therefore contributed to a negative environment with his own comments and conduct,” Beltgens continued. “While the Respondents say that the comments were intended to be facetious, Mr. Bedry maintains that the comments were hurtful to him.”
The tribunal member noted that homophobic comments can “amount to an adverse treatment”.
Beltgens encouraged the parties to make use of the tribunal’s mediation services to settle the matter.