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Lugonia v. Arista Homes: Pregnancy, short-term contracts and the “Code”

In the summer of 2013 the applicant, Amanda Lugonia, began a new job at the same time she discovered she was starting a new family, the result of which was instant dismissal from her new employer. The respondent denied that the applicant’s pregnancy was a factor in the termination of her employment and in addition denied knowledge of the pregnancy, claiming the reason for her termination was due to lack of “fit”.[1]

The applicant, Ms. Lugonia, was hired to replace a receptionist who was preparing for a one year maternity leave. Ms. Lugonia had undergone two interviews in the early summer of 2013 and had performed quite well. As a matter of fact, her future employers were so impressed with Ms. Lugonia that they hired her after her second interview, foregoing a third interview which they had intended. Ms. Lugonia, upon being presented with the job offer, resigned from her present job in order to take the one-year contract position with her new employers.

Ms. Lugonia was hired and as part of her training was given an orientation and her duties explained to her by Ms. Rose Giulekas, the employee who was preparing for maternity leave. On the third day of training, the applicant confided in Ms. Giulekas that she too was pregnant. The applicant testified that Ms. Giulekas warned her that she should wait 3-4 months before she told her new bosses that she was pregnant as you “never know” what they might do.[2] Ms. Lugonia testified that she did not reveal to anyone else at the workplace that she was pregnant.

Later that afternoon Ms. Lugonia was offered a contract and a confidentiality agreement which she signed. The following business day Ms. Lugonia arrived at work and was called into the office. Some minutes later Ms. Lugonia found herself without a job and with very little explanation as to why.

Applicable law

[49] Under s. 5 of the Human Rights Code, every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of a number of grounds including sex. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex includes the right to equal treatment without discrimination because a woman is or may become pregnant: s. 10(2) of the Code.[3]

[50] The applicant bears the onus of establishing discrimination on a balance of probabilities. To successfully establish discrimination, an applicant must prove that it is more probable than not that discrimination was a factor in the respondent’s actions. [4]

The decision

The Tribunal found that the timing of Ms. Lugonia’s termination supported an inference that the respondents were aware of her pregnancy. Although the applicant had testified that at the signing of the one year contract she knew she would not be able to fulfill her contractual obligations, nonetheless, the Tribunal still considered a number of facts; there were no signs of dissatisfaction during the 3 shifts which Ms. Lugonia had worked, yet suddenly she was terminated at the start of her fourth shift. The Tribunal considered the fact that the previous day the applicant had told Ms. Giulekas about her pregnancy, and that the very next shift Ms. Lugonia was terminated. The Tribunal stated that the respondents had spent weeks looking for a candidate to fill the one year contract position, and they had not only selected the applicant, but had done so without the third interview which they had intended. In addition, the respondents had given the applicant an employment contract at the end of the shift prior to the shift from which she was fired. Again, the question remained whether or not the respondents were in fact aware of Ms. Lugonia’s pregnancy and terminated her for that reason.

Based on the totality of the evidence, the Tribunal found the inference of discrimination more probable than the non-discriminatory explanation for the applicant’s termination as put forward by the respondents.[5]

Remedies

The respondents were ordered to pay to Ms. Lugonia $15,000 as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect, and in addition, to undergo human rights training to be paid for at their own expense. Lugonia v. Arista Homes, 2014 HRTO reminds employers the Human Rights Code applies to the ground of Sex (pregnancy) even in a short-term contract position.


[1] Lugonia v. Arista Homes, 2014 HRTO para. 1

[2] Ibid., para. 16

[3] Ibid., para. 49

[4] Ibid., para. 50

[5] Ibid., para. 76

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Kevin Sambrano

Kevin Sambrano, B.A.A. is a paralegal who is passionate about human rights. Kevin worked for a number of years as a tenant advocate organizing over 100 tenant associations and taking part in over 80 positive outcome negotiations. He completed his internship at a law firm, focusing in human rights and employment law. Recently, Kevin opened the doors of Sambrano Legal Services offering representation in human rights and employment law in Toronto and the GTA.Read more
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