$5K fine for employer’s human rights failure

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A Winnipeg cleaning company has been hit with a $5,000 fine and instructions to amend its HR policies after it dismissed one worker just days after she revealed she was pregnant.

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission found that Cindy Dayman – owner of Take Time Cleaning and Lifestyle Services – had considered pregnancy and the need for time off as factors in the dismissal of employee Andrea Szabo.

Szabo alleged that she had been fired after disclosing her pregnancy on a company health form – which asked employees if they were pregnant or had plans to become pregnant. She also claimed that her medical appointments weren't accommodated.

While employer Dayman denied the allegations – insisting the termination had come as a result of multiple customer complaints – adjudicator Robert Dawson disagreed and ordered Dayman to complete a workshop on workplace harassment.

The company was also instructed to amend its HR policies and stop collecting information that could be used in order to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, the possibility of pregnancy or circumstances related to pregnancy.

Szabo admitted that she’d had doubts about the legality of the paperwork when she was asked to complete it.
"It was definitely a concern even when I was filling out the forms at the time," Szabo said. "I didn't think that was something that was allowed. I am glad that will be changed, and it won't be allowed to happen anymore."

Human rights commissioner Diane Dwarka said the decision sent a clear message to employrs that they must be aware of their obligations under the code and should avoid making assumptions about pregnancy-related needs in the workplace.

"Employers cannot use 'business reasons' as justification for otherwise discriminatory decisions,” she said.

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