Human Rights complaint about Costco backpack search dismissed

Customer claims he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex

Ryan Morris launched a human rights complaint against Costco after an employee demanded to check inside his backpack on his way out when women carrying purses were not subjected to the same search.

But his complaint won’t be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal because on June 6 Tribunal member Pamela Murray dismissed it, agreeing with Costco’s application to have her do so on the grounds the complaint has no reasonable prospect of success.

“I have decided to dismiss the complaint,” Murray declared. “While Mr. Morris clearly sincerely believes Costco targeted him because he was carrying a backpack and treated him differently that women leaving the store carrying purses, large or otherwise, I find he has no reasonable prospect of persuading the Tribunal at a hearing that his sex was a factor in any adverse impact on him.”

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Murray heard that twice in the summer of 2017, when Morris was leaving a Costco store, an employee asked him to open his backpack so she could look inside.

Morris said none of many women leaving the store on both occasions were similarly searched despite carrying large purses, and he was very embarrassed because other customers stared as him during these checks. He claims he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex.

Morris told the Tribunal it was the same employee who stopped him on two separate days – on June 14, 2017 and July 26, 2017 – and the second time this happened at least 15 women passed by, all carrying handbags and purses, without being searched.

He said he asked to see a manager, who he claims told him Costco has the right to search his bag but not purses.

“Costco says women carrying backpacks would have them inspected and there is nothing from Mr. Morris in the materials before me to suggest otherwise,” Murray noted in her reasons for decision. “In my view, this demonstrates in the circumstances the absence of a connection between Mr. Morris’ backpack being searched and his sex.”



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