Human Rights Advisory Services

Human Rights Advisory Services
Human Rights Advisory Services

Sally Rowley v. 1145678 Ontario Limited and Stuart MacDonald, 2015 HRTO 776


The applicant, Sally Rowley, alleged discrimination on the basis of family status after she was fired from a car dealership. Rowley states that she was dismissed because she made a couple of personal phone calls regarding her son, who has special needs. The respondents’ deny that the applicant was terminated because of her son or because she took personal calls and/or because she was away from work on a couple of occasions. The respondents’ position is that the applicant was terminated for “over socializing”, not being at her position and performing her job, and returning late from lunch on more than one occasion

The applicant was employed as a service coordinator from January 6, 2014 until February 14, 2014 when she was terminated. She reported to the personal respondent. 

On February 14, 2014, the personal respondent asked to see the applicant before she left for the day. When she reported to his office, he told her that she was being relieved from her employment, and he did not provide a reason as she had not been an employee for three months. The applicant told the personal respondent that she did not accept his reason for her termination and demanded to see Mr. Herrmann. He re-stated the same reasons for firing her and she did not inform him about her special needs son.

During the hearing the application was found not discriminatory on the ground of family status.


Question to be determine

Did the complainant establish a prima facie discrimination based on family status?




In this case, Rowley did not provide sufficient proof of her accusation and she admitted that she went to other departments during working hours to chat with other employees:

While the applicant points to her absences from work and receipt of personal telephone calls as reasons, at least in part, for her termination, I find that the applicant has not been able to prove that her family status was the reason for, or a factor in, her termination. I accept the uncontradicted evidence that the personal respondent told the applicant that she was terminated for reasons other than personal telephone calls and leaving work because of her son. (para. 35 & 36)


On top of this, Mr. Herrmann was not aware that the applicant had a special needs child, but the personal respondent was aware of her son. However, this information was never communicated to Mr. Hermann:


By itself, Mr. Herrmann not knowing that the applicant had a special needs child as of February 14, 2014 would undermine the applicant’s allegation that she was terminated because of her family status of having a special needs child. (para. 39)


            Therefore, the applicant has not been able to prove that Mr. Herrmann knew that she was receiving telephone calls in relation to her child or was taking time off work to attend to her child, or that these were factors in deciding to terminate her. The Court found the respondent’s explanation more believable and dismissed the application stating that the applicant did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination.