Eight human rights complaints filed against UBC on basis of workplace discrimination

UBC’s largest professional management association is filing eight human rights complaints against the university for allegedly denying employees promotions or terminating them because of disability or pregnancy.

As first reported in The Globe and Mail, the Association of Administrative Professional Staff at UBC (AAPS) — which represents 4,500 university employees — announced yesterday that they had helped six of their members file complaints against UBC and senior officials since May.

“... 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,” said AAPS Executive Director Joey Hansen in a release.

The AAPS lists those officials as Dean of Arts Gage Averill, Dean of Education Blye Frank, Chief Information Officer Jennifer Burns and UBC Okanagan Dean of Health and Social Development and Associate Provost Gord Binsted. Two of the remaining complaints only name UBC.

UBC denied the allegations and declined to comment on the individual cases, according to a statement from Senior Media Relations Director Kurt Heinrich. It also asked that the names of the respondents and complantants be kept private.

“Given the privacy interests of those involved, the University will not be making any further comment about this matter and will defend its position at the Tribunal,” said Heinrich.

Under UBC’s employment equity policy, the university commits to “[ensuring] that fair and equal opportunity is afforded to all who seek employment at the University; and treat equitably all faculty and staff.”

But the AAPS alleges that many of its complainants have been terminated or denied promotion because of disability or pregnancy. In one case, a female AAPS member was promised a promotion, then later allegedly denied it after informing her supervisor she was pregnant.

Hansen says that AAPS members often feel too intimidated to request accommodations, worried that they may instead be unilaterally terminated.

“The university would take some steps to try and accommodate health issues, which is the university's legal obligation, but as soon as it became inconvenient in any way the university would terminate those employees.” said Hansen.

He added that some of the complainants had been asked by UBC to uncover extensively details and sometimes traumatizing medical records for the case even though the university had already acknowledged their disability.

“It feels to me like it’s vindictive and like its an opportunity to grind these employees down a little further,” said Hansen.

Currently, the Human Rights Tribunal has only assigned a hearing date in the next year for one complaint, and will not make public any of the complaints’ details until three months before a hearing is scheduled.

This article has been updated to correct the name of Dean of Education Blye Frank.