January 26, 2009

Human Rights Commission - Commission Comments on Decision of Chief Adjudicator

The Human Rights Commission comments upon the decision of Jamie Merrigan, Chief Adjudicator, the Board of Inquiry appointed to hear the human rights complaint of Sonya Harvey against Woodford Training Centre Inc., which was released on January 21, 2009. The Board of Inquiry found that Ms. Harvey had been discriminated when it forced her to withdraw from her esthetics training program after she was diagnosed with a communicable disease.

The program in which Ms. Harvey was enrolled has an entry requirement that students must provide a medical certificate stating that they are free from communicable and contagious disease. Once students are accepted into the program, Woodford does not require ongoing medical certification. During her training, Ms. Harvey was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which can be transmitted by sexual contact or direct contact with blood. Ms. Harvey chose to inform the school of her diagnosis. She was subsequently informed that she must voluntarily withdraw from the program or else be terminated. Ms. Harvey withdrew voluntarily, but Mr. Merrigan determined that she did not do so of her own volition.

The Human Rights Code permits a denial of services or facilities because of physical disability if the denial is based on a good faith qualification. There is a duty on the individual making the denial, however, to accommodate the person with the disability until it is not possible to do so without undue hardship.

Mr. Merrigan found that there were adequate accommodation methods available for Ms. Harvey that would not have caused Woodford undue hardship, but that no accommodations were offered to her. Mr. Merrigan concluded "that Ms. Harvey was discriminated against as a result of having been diagnosed with hepatitis C and that Woodford has not established that this discrimination was based on a good faith qualification."

Mr. Merrigan directed Woodford to provide the Department of Education with a copy of the Board of Inquiry�s decision and seek a change to the entry requirement regarding medical certification so as to bring it into compliance with the Human Rights Code.

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Media contact:

Carey S. Majid
Executive Director
Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 8700
St. John�s, NL
A1B 4J6
709-729-2709, 1-800-563-5808

2009 01 26                                                     2:40 p.m.

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