Sixteen female BC Ferries employees have filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint alleging a “climate of harassment and bullying of women” exists in the workplace.
The complaint said women are singled out as different in the engine room, excluded in correspondence by being referred to as ‘gents,’ and lack changing space despite being required to change at work. The complaint also said they can be interrupted while they are changing, must pass through men’s changing spaces to access toilet or shower facilities, and have insufficient receptacles to dispose of feminine hygiene products.
“The lack of facilities draws focus to their status as women, causes them to feel different, unwelcome, humiliated, and unsafe in the workplace,” the complaint said.
“Group members experience negative remarks about period-related mood changes, and about their separate status as women. For example, one chief engineer said, regarding a six-year employee group member, ‘I need to behave today because we have ‘company’ in the engine room.’”
The tribunal document noted women workers are routinely referred to as ‘girls.’
The case is ongoing as BC Ferries has asked for further particulars, including more information on workplace climate allegations (like who was involved), when the alleged events happened, and what is alleged to have occurred. It also asks for the names of the 16 women.
Laurence Grey Spencer, the representative who’s bringing the complaint forward, says it's a request that puts the group in danger.
“BC Ferries argues that it requires this information to know the case it must meet, and to properly respond to the complaint,” a Nov. 15 decision by tribunal member Kathleen Smith said.
Spencer argued the requested information is not required for BC Ferries to respond to the complaint.
Smith said five out of the seven allegations refer to specific alleged incidents of discrimination.
“I agree with BC Ferries that they are missing the basic facts of who was involved, when the event happened, and what happened,” she said. “For this reason, I am persuaded that additional details are required for BC Ferries to know the case it must meet and respond.”
The events are alleged to have occurred from December 2019 to December 2020 — what Smith called alleged ongoing conduct.
“It is both reasonable and necessary that, where available and known, the group members must provide the basic information about their allegations, including when and where the incident occurred, what happened, and who was involved,” Smith said.
She declined to order the disclosure of the names, being satisfied at this point with the description of the alleged victims being workers in the engineering department.
The tribunal member said allegations of danger to the women, if they are named, are serious.
“Mr. Spencer, however, does not provide any evidentiary basis to support it. It is my expectation that a party alleging exposure to danger will provide the necessary evidence for the tribunal to make a decision,” Smith said.
Spencer must provide the particulars by no later than Jan. 10. The response from BC Ferries is due 35 days later.