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Human Rights Tribunal throws out discrimination complaint

Former tractor driver accused B.C. union of harassment, threats


(Canadian OH&S News) — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) has dismissed a case in which an Indo-Canadian former labourer and multi-tractor driver in New Westminster, B.C. accused the local chapter of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) of discriminating against her with harassment, assault and threats.

Munglegeet Kaur Siddoo, a former employee of Terminal Systems Inc. (TSI), filed her complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) in 2010. According to the final CHRT decision, which was published online on Sept. 15, Siddoo was being trained as a checker for TSI in July 2010; at the time, she had been off work for more than three years due to injuries from a car accident. But on the third day of training, her two trainers concluded that her experience was insufficient and replaced her with another worker, while rescheduling Siddoo for a different training group.

CHRT Member David Thomas, who presided over the complaint hearings in Vancouver in February, wrote in the decision that Siddoo had subsequently sent an e-mail to ILWU Local 502 representative Chris Verbeek, accusing the trainers of discriminating against her based on her race and gender, as well as harassment. Verbeek countered that the accusations were “ludicrous,” in part because one of the trainers was Indo-Canadian and two of the other trainees, as well as her replacement, were women.

Siddoo began the new training session in Sept. 2010, but was fired before it was completed. “According to the ILWU, Miss Siddoo had missed work on October 22, 2010 without explanation and left her station early on another occasion,” wrote Thomas in the decision. “There also appeared to be some allegations that the employer, TSI, had concerns with Miss Siddoo’s conduct.”

Among Siddoo’s further accusations against the union was one of constant harassment, including mobbing, stalking, psychological terrorism and death threats. She claimed that another ILWU member had mocked her for being a “spinster” and that one of her trainers had made derogatory comments about people who wear turbans.

“Every act by which a person causes some form of anxiety to another could be labelled as harassment. What offends one person may not offend the next,” wrote Thomas. “We are all capable of being, on occasion, somewhat thoughtless, insensitive and perhaps even outright stupid. Does this mean that there can never be any safe interactions between people?”

Thomas concluded that Siddoo was prone to jumping to unlikely conclusions. “She also seems convinced that parties are sometimes colluding against her,” he added. “While perhaps honestly believing representatives and members of the ILWU were ‘out to get her’ and perhaps experiencing distress and anxiety as a result, [Siddoo] overreacted to events on several occasions… I do not believe discrimination played a factor.

“I have determined that the complaint has not been substantiated.”

The CHRC did not send a representative to the complaint hearings, according to the decision document. “If it saw evidence of discrimination in its investigation, it would have been helpful for the Commission to present it before the Tribunal,” wrote Thomas.

The decision document is available to view online at http://decisions.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/chrt-tcdp/decisions/en/item/119830/index.do#_Toc430101732.