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Queen's University
 

Moore

Facts

In November 1985, Cecilia Moore, a devout Roman Catholic, began a six month probationary period as an auxiliary financial aid worker for the B.C. Ministry of Social Services. In March, 1985, she rejected a request from a client seeking assistance to have an abortion, based on her interpretation of the ministry's regulations and policies. When, in April 1985, her district supervisor overturned Moore's decision and ordered her to grant the award, she refused on religious grounds; facilitating abortion was contrary to the tenets of Catholicism. Despite warnings, from the district supervisor and her float supervisor, that insubordination would result in the termination of her employment, Moore insisted that she would continue to refuse to authorize coverage for abortion. On May 21,1985, she was informed that she had been dismissed "effective immediately", because she had "not proven suitable for continued employment as a financial assistance worker".  The complaint of religious discrimination took a circuitous route. Held in abeyance by the B.C. Council of Human Rights, it went to the Supreme Court in 1986, where it failed to qualify as a Charter case, and then back to the B.C. Council, where it was heard in 1989.  In its defense, the Ministry of Social Services argued that accommodating Moore, would mean exempting her from cases involving abortions, sterilization and contraception, and reassigning those cases to the district supervisor, who was not always in the office. Because this disruption would have been "detrimental to service delivery", no attempt at accommodation occurred.  (Moore v. British Columbia (Ministry of Social Services) (1992), 17 C.H.R.R. D/426 (B.C.C.H.R.))

Questions

  1. Is this a case of adverse effect discrimination based on religion?
  2. Did the employer establish a defense of accommodation?
  3. Did the complainant bear any responsibility for having accepted the file ?

Rulings

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Yes

Council's Reasoning

  1. This was clearly a prima facie case of adverse effect discrimination; Cecilia Moore was threatened with disciplinary action and eventually dismissed because of her refusal to fulfill a neutral occupational requirement because it conflicted with her religious beliefs.
  2. The employer based its decision not to accommodate Moore on impressionistic evidence. In order to prove undue hardship, concrete evidence is required.
  3. By accepting a client she clearly could not serve, Moore failed to fulfill her duty as a public servant, which was to provide services to the public without discrimination. She should have exempted herself from the file from the very beginning.  Moore's act of discrimination does not affect the ruling about the Ministry's act of discrimination. It does, however, affect the remedy. Moore received only half of the full $2000 charge for hurt feelings.

Further information on religious-based conduct Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances, s.6 and 8.3

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000