February 24, 2004
The following is being distributed at the request of the Human Rights Commission:
Board of Inquiry to hear complaint
The Human Rights Commission comments upon the decision of Valerie Marshall, the Board of Inquiry appointed to hear the human rights complaint of George Smith against his former employer, PCL Industrial Constructors Inc., which was released on February 18, 2004. The Board of Inquiry found that Mr. Smith had been discriminated against on the basis of a physical disability.
In December 2000 Mr. Smith sustained a back injury while performing work in the Pipe Fabrication Shop of PCL Industrial Constructors Inc. on the Terra Nova Project at the Bull Arm construction site. He was consequently off work until March 12, 2001, when he was medically cleared to return to work. He was laid off on March 16, 2001 and alleged that the layoff was due to his absence from work to recover from his injury. PCL Industrial had alleged that Mr. Smith was laid off due to a shortage of work, as over 100 people were laid off at the work site on March 16, 2001.
Mr. Smith was a welder. The Board of Inquiry found that Mr. Smith was as well or better qualified than the 12 welders who were not laid off on March 16, 2001. PCL Industrial argued that Mr. Smith was laid off because he had an extensive break outside of the workplace and therefore was not as well versed in the workplace operations as of March 2001. The Board of Inquiry concluded that this explanation was discriminatory in that Mr. Smith�s absence from the workplace was due to his disability, and further, there was no evidence to suggest operational demands had changed from December 2000 to March 2001.
Mr. Smith was awarded $2,000 in general damages and lost wages up to July 16, 2001, the end date of the project.
Barry Fleming represented the Human Rights Commission at the Board of Inquiry, while PCL Industrial Constructors Inc. was represented by Harold Smith, Q.C. Copies of the decision are available at the Commission�s office.
For further information contact:
2004 02 24 10:50 a.m.