Allergy to latex balloons triggers discrimination complaint versus City of Burnaby

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      A City of Burnaby worker has filed a human rights complaint against her employer in connection with an allergy.

      Tracy Klewchuk is allergic to latex, the substance used in many products, including balloons, gloves, and condoms.

      Klewchuk has alleged before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that the city did not accommodate her allergy.

      She supposedly asked the city to stop using latex balloons at the recreational facilities she works in as early as 2007 or 2008.

      Klewchuk alleged that the city didn’t stop using these balloons.

      Instead, she was scheduled to shifts with no balloons, and the supposed result was that she did not get a lot of hours.

      The B.C. Human Rights Code provides in Section 13 that a person must not be discriminated against in employment on different grounds, one of which is physical disability.

      Klewchuk’s claims were summarized by tribunal member Devyn Cousineau in a ruling on an application to dismiss the complaint.

      The application was filed by three supervisors named in the employee’s complaint, which was granted by Cousineau.

      According to Cousineau, the city “accepts full responsibility for the actions of the Individual Respondents”, namely, Kathryn Carriss, Arlene Mann, and Alicia Myton.

      “The City has not applied to have Ms. Klewchuk’s complaint dismissed without a hearing,” the tribunal member noted.

      Klewchuk’s complaint was based on her experience working at the Kensington Complex, and the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.

      In her ruling stating that the complaint will proceed against the city, Cousineau wrote that based on submissions, Kensington and Copeland stopped using latex balloons starting October 2016.

      Allergy to latex is a serious concern among a number of workers, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

      “Although the symptoms vary from case to case, the most common reaction to latex products is the development of dry, itchy, and irritated areas on the skin (irritant contact dermatitis), usually the hands,” the CCOHS notes online.

      There are more severe reactions: runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throat and asthmatic symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

      In some cases, there is swelling of the face, lips, and airways.

      “Symptoms typically will quickly subside with avoidance; however, a person will remain sensitive,” according to the CCOHS. 

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