In a recent adjudication decision, Diane Legros, a PSAC member who worked for Canada Border Services Agency, was awarded $25,000 in damages because her employer discriminated against her based on her age. The Federal Public Service Labour and Employment Relations Board (FPSLREB) decision awarded these significant damages because the employer refused to allow Legros to take advantage of a retirement incentive due to her age, and that the discrimination was “willful and reckless.”
“We are pleased to see that the adjudicator awarded significant damages for a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “It’s important that in cases like this, where managers so blatantly and recklessly discriminate against an employee, that there be a consequence for that. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this case.”
Denial of alternation based on age
The adjudicator found that the grievor’s age was a factor in the employer’s decision to deny her alternation, which was discrimination. Alternation is available under the Workforce Adjustment Directive during reorganization or downsizing in the public service. It occurs when one employee switches or “alternates” with another employee who has been declared surplus and will lose their job. The employee can alternate into the surplus job and retire with a financial payout known as the “transition support measure”.
Legros wanted to alternate with a surplus employee and take the transition support measure and retire. But her manager refused to allow her to do so because of her age. She was 62 and the manager expected she would likely retire soon and her position could be eliminated at that time.
The adjudicator said that “due to the grievor’s age, [the manager] was relying on the grievor retiring to meet the DRAP’s objectives. For that reason, she denied her a benefit (leaving as an alternate) that others could claim.” This denial of the benefit was age discrimination.
Damages for pain and suffering, “willful and reckless” discrimination
According to the decision, the manager “did everything in her power to prevent [the alternation] from taking place.”
The manager’s refusal continued despite an adjudication decision in another case where the Board had ruled that alternation could not be denied based on the employer’s future plan to eliminate the alternate’s position once he or she retired.
The adjudicator awarded $10,000 in damages for “willful and reckless discrimination” under section 53(3) of the Act, because the manager continued the refusal for a long time, even after the other adjudication decision.
Stating that Legros suffered “significant pain and suffering”, the adjudicator also awarded $15,000 in damages under section 53(2)(e) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
A version of this article was first published on the PSAC website.