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Balancing one-year contracts with pregnancy leave – Outcome of Human Rights Board of Inquiry hearing

To recap from last month’s blog post, the employee in this case had been working for the Community Justice Society in Nova Scotia on a one-year contract basis for the last two years. She asked for a meeting with the Executive Director because her contract was ending in one-month’s time. She advised the Executive Director that she was three months pregnant but that she planned to continue with her work, apply for the next one-year contract, have her baby and return to work. According to the employee, she was offered a five-month contract extension only. The Society claimed that the employee did not get a contract renewal due to performance issues. Her record showed that she had received a written reprimand, and a two-day suspension in 2010, but otherwise, the record was clear.

On June 13, 2013, a Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry rendered its decision on the case.

The Board found it more probable that pregnancy was not a contributing factor to the respondent’s decision to refuse the complainant continued employment, beyond the five month extension it granted to her. The respondent’s refusal to consider the complainant for employment beyond the five month extension had an adverse impact upon the complainant; however, the adverse effect occurred due to non-discriminatory reasons.

The adverse treatment arose solely due to performance issues and personality conflict between the complainant and her executive director. As well, the number of performance-related challenges in the workplace related to the employee’s supervisor (who reported to the executive director) and the perceived alliance between the supervisor and the complainant likely did not assist the employee’s cause. The Board found that none of the direct or indirect reasons for what happened related to the complainant’s pregnancy.

Essentially, the case was about a difference of opinion and a clash of wills between two strong-minded individuals. The fact that the employee was pregnant at the time was simply ruled to be a “temporal coincidence”.

The decision makes for some very interesting and disturbing reading.

Amery Boyer
The Human Element, just a different way to manage

Amery Boyer

Amery Boyer, CHRP, MBA is a Human Resources professional with extensive experience in human resources, staffing and employee relations for both the private and public sectors and various levels of governments. She was a contributing editor of The Human Resources Advisor, Atlantic edition published by First Reference. Read more
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