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BC Human Rights Tribunal dismisses employee’s complaint against City of Kamloops

The complaint about bullying and harassment by a co-worker was dismissed because the victim of the behaviour was offered a settlement by the city
BC Human Rights Tribunal

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint brought against the City of Kamloops by the son of a former councillor due to the fact the city had made a reasonable settlement offer that was rejected.

Peter Spina, who remains employed by the city, is the son of the late Marg Spina, who served on council from 2008 to 2017.

Spina complained that he was discriminated against at work on the basis of ancestry, family status and sexual orientation via bullying and harassment by a co-worker.

His complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal alleges the city failed to provide a safe workplace free from discriminatory bullying and harassment by that co-worker.

The city applied to dismiss the complaint, arguing it would not further the purpose of the Human Rights Code because it made a reasonable settlement offer, which Spina rejected.

The city’s offer, which remains open even after Spina’s complaint was dismissed, includes $34,000 in damages for injury to dignity, $8,085.05 in lost wages and $7,657.65 to restore Spina’s sick bank.

Spina was asking for the same in lost wages and sick bank, but for more in damages for injury to dignity.

Tribunal chair Emily Ohler said the offer from the city constitutes a reasonable settlement offer.

“It is apparent to me — and the city acknowledges — that Mr. Spina had a very challenging, negative experience that impacted his life,” Ohler said in the decision.

“Ultimately, however, the offer largely mirrors the kind of remedies the tribunal would likely award were Mr. Spina to succeed at a hearing. In other words, a hearing is equally unlikely to heal that wound given that the experience cannot be undone and the nature of the tools at the tribunal’s disposal.”

Between 2011 and 2016, Spina filed numerous complaints with the city in connection with the behaviour of his co-worker. Spina said the co-worker made derogatory comments about Spina’s Italian heritage, about his family members employed by the city and about his perceived sexual orientation. On another occasion, Spina filed a complaint, alleging the co-worker bumped into him with his body and knee, then mocked Spina afterward.

Due to the bullying and harassment, Spina took temporary postings to other city departments and took leaves of absences.

The city did investigate Spina’s complaints, with Ohler noting the investigator found that the co-worker had indeed called Spina a number of derogatory names between 2011 and 2016 and made intimidating comments in 2011 and 2012 and that the incidents constituted bullying and harassment.

As a result, the city imposed significant discipline on the co‐worker (though the tribunal decision does not specify what that discipline was), gave Spina an opportunity to return to his previous position, removed the co‐worker from Spina’s department upon Spina’s return and prohibited the co‐worker from returning to that department as long as Spina is there. In addition to the settlement offer, the city also provided harassment training to all employees, with tailored training for the co‐worker.