Even if there were no discrimination, she would have been let go just the same.
Mackenzie Weihs was a new hair stylist, and she wasn’t very skilled yet.
As a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal noted, the managers of the Great Clips salon had real concerns about her abilities.
They said she wasn’t good enough, and so they terminated her during her probationary period.
But Weihs believed she was fired for another reason. And that’s because she was pregnant.
In reasons for decision in favour of Weihs, tribunal member Grace Chen wrote that the stylist’s pregnancy “only has to be a factor in the adverse treatment”.
“Her pregnancy does not have to be the sole factor or the main factor,” according to Chen.
Weihs was fired eight days after she announced her pregnancy.
Chen noted that salon manager Marlene Barker quipped after hearing Weihs’ announcement: “I hope Lizzie and the other girls aren’t pregnant. Whatever you did, keep it with you.”
Lizzie is another stylist, and according to Chen, the comment suggests that Barker “thought negatively about accommodating a pregnancy”.
“Ms. Barker testified that Lizzie was an exceptional stylist,” Chen wrote. “I reasonably infer that Ms. Barker made her comment because she did not want Lizzie to go on leave if she became pregnant. This is a logical conclusion given the Respondents’ evidence that they were short‐staffed and wanted competent stylists on the floor.”
While there were “genuine concerns” about Ms. Weihs’ abilities, Chen noted that it “was not until after the pregnancy announcement that Ms. Barker decided she did not want to invest further into improving Ms. Weihs’ skills”.
“Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination,” the ruling noted.
In addition to Great Clips and Barker, salon owner Angela Rollins was also named as respondent in Weihs’ complaint.
“Ms. Rollins testified there would have been no significant financial investment in keeping Ms. Weihs if she were competent,” Chen wrote.
According to Rollins, the $400 cost to send Weihs to the Great Clips styling academy would have been “significantly outweighed by the sales Ms. Weihs would have generated if she were a competent stylist”.
“However, I find it was not money that the Respondents did not want to invest,” Chen stated. “Rather, I find the Respondents did not want to invest any more time and energy into increasing Ms. Weihs’ skills after learning she was pregnant.”
“Specifically, I find Ms. Barker decided she did not want to invest those efforts when she learned Ms. Weihs was pregnant because Ms. Weihs required too much help and her maternity leave would interrupt any progress,” Chen continued. “I find Ms. Rollins relied on Ms. Barker’s judgment when they decided to fire Ms. Weihs.”
Rollins is based in Metro Vancouver. She and a partner own a chain of salons, and the one where Weihs worked was in Campbell River.
Chen accepted as true the testimonies presented that Rollins was supportive of stylists in her other salons “during and after their pregnancies”.
“It is possible for a manager in one salon to act in a discriminatory fashion while other managers in other salons do not,” Chen wrote. “I accept that Ms. Rollins expects all of her salons to be managed in a non‐discriminatory way.”
“However, Ms. Rollins’ intentions on how her employees should be treated are only as good as how they are carried out by her management team on the ground,” Chen continued. “In this situation, is it clear that Ms. Rollins’ expectations were not met.”
Chen ordered Weihs to be compensated for around $11,000.
The amount includes $9,000 as damages for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect. Also covered are three-weeks’ worth of lost wages and tips, expenses, and contribution to the Canada Pension Plan, from the day after her termination in March 2017 to the last day of her probationary period.