VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some staff members are accusing the University of British Columbia of discrimination over their disabilities or pregnancies.
Eight human rights complaints have been filed with the Human Rights Tribunal, with the group representing professional staff and management claiming six of its members have raised these concerns.
“One of those members was promised a significant promotion,” Executive Director Joey Hansen with the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff says. “They then disclosed to their supervisor that they were pregnant, and they were suddenly denied the promotion and the university promoted somebody else.”
Among other complaints, Hansen says there were also cases where UBC terminated employees because it “found accommodating their disability to be inconvenient.”
At this point, none of these accusations have been proven.
Hansen believes these claims are incredibly concerning.
“UBC is one of the largest employers in the province. It certainly has the resources to accommodate individuals with health issues.”
“From our standpoint, it’s allowing some of its senior leadership to discard sick or injured employees particularly as though most organizations discard damaged office furniture,” Hansen adds.
AAPS is not a union and is not covered by just cause protection, making it relatively easier for the university to fire its members, Hansen explains.
It’s for this reason, he believes, that many people have been afraid to come forward and ask for accommodation because of a disability or disclose a pregnancy sooner than they had to.
The allegations fly in the face of UBC’s highly-funded marketing campaign purporting to promote the health and well-being of its students and employees, the group adds.
While all of the employees in question have a variety of jobs and work at either of UBC’s campuses, Hansen says they all reported to someone relatively senior at the university.
The head of the AAPS hopes UBC reinstates these employees and takes proactive measures to ensure similar discriminatory actions don’t occur in the future.
“Legally, the University has an obligation to accommodate disabled employees so that they can continue to thrive in the workplace,” Joey Hansen, Executive Director of AAPS, says in a statement. “However, at UBC it seems that there are a number of instances where the University’s senior leadership has, in our view, discarded disabled employees as though they were broken office furniture.”
In a statement to NEWS 1130, UBC Media Relations Senior Director Kurt Heinrich says the university is “proud to be routinely recognized” as a top employer in B.C. , and adds this includes being of the top employers for young people, the most diverse employers, as well as the greenest across both of its campuses.
“The University works hard to ensure employees have access to innovative programs and benefits including staff housing programs, fitness facilities, daycare, retirement planning assistance and many others that make UBC an exceptional work environment,” Heinrich’s statement reads.
He adds UBC is aware of the complaints by AAPS members, and says the university takes any discrimination concerns seriously.
Heinrich says UBC denies the allegations and will not be providing any further comments due to privacy, adding the university “will defend its position at the Tribunal.”
-With files from Martin MacMahon