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Queen's University
 

Hamedanian v Capilano University

What does a complainant need to demonstrate in order to have a reasonable prospect of success in a religious discrimination case?

Facts

 Maryam Hamedanian is an Iranian woman of the Muslim faith. Her employment with Capilano University, where she worked as a systems analyst, was terminated at the end of the 6-month probation of her 1year paternity replacement contract. The employer contends that the termination was made on the grounds of poor performance and disruptive behavior whereas the employee alleges that it was made on the basis of her creed and gender. The facts show that the complainant had a history of volatile disagreements with her manager, the director of ITS and several senior colleagues with whom she refused to cooperate, from whom she refused to take direction and whom she considered to be inferior both in terms of educational achievement and its competency.   She stated, at Tribunal, that she represented a threat to her coworkers in ITS. She also contended that they considered her to be inferior to them because she was a woman and a Muslim.    When the University received notification of the Human Rights Tribunal hearing, it filed an application to dismiss the case on the ground that it had no reasonable prospect of success.

The allegations refer specifically to three incidents: 1)      During a conversation with a curious coworker, the complainant explained that not all Muslims abstain from drinking and that she herself enjoyed moderate social drinking. At this point, she contends that her manager made a discriminatory remark; he preferred his workers to be heavy scotch drinkers. The complaint alleges that this was a joke, but an offensive one that discriminated against her on the basis of gender and religion. The Manager denies making this or any other joke about alcohol. 2)      The complainant also alleges that at the Staff Christmas Party, her manager and the project manager loudly discussed the Christian nature of Christmas, a discourse which deeply offended her as a Muslim woman. They deny making any such comments. 3)      After the Respondent filed an application to dismiss this case, the complainant made a third allegation. She claimed that a coworker, one who had reported her to Human Resources and the Director of ITS for disruptive behavior in the workplace, had declared that “women had no place as Systems Analyst or in the systems Analysts’ room.”  Maryam Hamedanian and Capilano University (2009) BCHRT 308

Question

Does the complainant have a reasonable prospect of establishing a nexus between the grounds of discrimination and alleged adverse treatment?

Answer:

No

Reasons:

1)      The drinking comment was innocuous and not prima facie discriminatory.

2)      The fact that the complainant neglected to make the allegation of gender discrimination against a coworker in the original complaint makes it less than credible.

3)      Although the Christmas party comment might possibly constitute discrimination, the case can be dismissed based on a global assessment of the entire situation:

a.       It does not make sense that the respondent would hire a person into a short-term position in order to see her fail; it makes more sense to believe that they wanted to hire the best person for the job and to facilitate her success to the highest possible degree. 

 b.      It is contradictory to assert that your coworkers are both threatened by your superior skills and scornful of your inferior skills. Moreover, the hiring of another Iranian woman of the Muslim faith at this time, and at a higher rank, in the ITS department undercuts the complainant’s speculation that she was seen as a threat by the department because of her faith, ethnic origin and gender.  Unlike the employee, the manager feels included, respected, and equitably treated.

c.       The complainant agrees with most of the statements made about her disruptive behavior, her disagreement with procedures, and her public defamation of her colleagues’ competency. The mere possibility of discrimination is not enough to merit the time, energy and expense of a public hearing if there is no reasonable prospect of success.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000