A woman has lodged a human rights complaint against a Surrey greenhouse, claiming she was discriminated against on the grounds of sex and marital status, contrary to the BC Human Rights Code.
Gurbax Mattu alleges her employer Evergrow Greenhouse Ltd. in Surrey discriminated against her. Evergrow denies her accusations and applied to have her complaint dismissed, but a member of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal decided earlier this month that Mattu’s complaint will proceed.
Her claims have not been proven at any hearing.
Mattu began working as a cucumber picker for Evergrow in 2000 and claims that in July 2016 her supervisor harassed her, calling her a “bitch” and subjecting her to “derogatory comments” about being single and divorced. She claimed to suffer from stress and mental health issues as a result.
Tribunal member Paul Singh noted in his reasons for decision that Mattu claimed, in response to her expressing concerns for her safety about working in areas that contain snakes, that her supervisor “suggested her safety concerns were less important because she was a single, divorced woman.”
Evergrow not only denied her claims but says the employee accused of making the comments is not a supervisor but rather a worker with the same regular duties as Mattu. The employer maintains that while the alleged use of the word “bitch” by an employee “may have been offensive and in bad taste, it does not necessarily constitute discrimination in the basis of sex absent sufficient particulars, which Ms. Mattu fails to provide,” Singh noted.
He also noted that in its application to dismiss Mattu’s claim, Evergrow shoulders the burden “to show that there is no reasonable prospect of the complaint succeeding” and not on Mattu to prove that discrimination had indeed occurred against her.
“Ms. Mattu claims she experienced stress and other mental health issues as a result of harassment at Evergrow,” Singh stated. “She claims that she sought medical treatment as a result of the harassment and that her physician prescribed medication and recommended rest to address her mental health symptoms. I find that Ms. Mattu’s evidence satisfies the low threshold in this application of overcoming conjecture. As a result, I am not persuaded that Ms. Mattu has no reasonable prospect of establishing that she suffered an adverse impact in the workplace.”
Singh concluded, “I deny the application to dismiss in its entirety. The complaint will proceed. I encourage the parties to take advantage of the Tribunal’s mediation services to try to resolve this matter by mutual agreement.”