Wednesday, June 12, 2024

16 women allege harassment in the workplace at BC Ferries


Over a dozen women have filed a human rights complaint against their employer BC Ferries, citing harassment and bullying within the workplace.

In total, 16 women have collectively made a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BC HRT) regarding bullying and harassment in their BC Ferries workplace that is based on their gender. 

The BC HRT released preliminary steps in a document on November 15th.

The group’s lawyer, Laurence Spencer has put forth the complaint with the BC HRT on behalf of the women to protect their identities. 

The women collectively made this complaint because they work in BC Ferries engineering rooms and they say there is a pattern of ongoing sex and gender-based discrimination by BC Ferries in their workplace.

Their complaints are:

  • That women are commonly referred to as ‘girls’ in their workplace
  • That women commonly deal with negative remarks related to their periods, mood changes and their separate status as women
  • That a chief engineer said, “I need to behave today because we have ‘company’ in the engine room,” in reference to women being present.
  • That there is a general climate of harassment and bullying toward women
  • That BC Ferries work environment has been subject to ongoing patterns of sexism for three decades

BC Ferries responded to these complaints by the group of women by claiming they had insufficient information and evidence to make these claims. They are also asking for the names of the women to be revealed.

BC Ferries claims to need this information in order to respond to the allegations. 

Spencer, on behalf of the 16 women, opposed the application for this additional information, which includes their names, to be released. 

He argued that the information requested by BC Ferries about the allegations is, “improper, unnecessary, impossible, overbroad and irregular.” 

Furthermore, Spencer said that revealing the groups names is, “unnecessary, impossible, contrary to the purposes of the Code, and dangerous to the complainants.” 

Kathleen Smith is the Tribunal member assigned to preside over these complaints. Smith has allowed for the application for more information to be made in part. 

“I agree with BC Ferries that they are missing the basic facts of who was involved, when the event happened, and what happened,” said Smith in a document released by the Tribunal. 

“For this reason, I am persuaded that additional details are required for BC Ferries to know the case it must meet and respond.”

Five out of the seven complaints made by the group of women refer to specific events, where two of them are more generalized. 

For the specific complaints, the Tribunal is requiring Spencer and the group of women he represents to provide information such as, names of those responsible, dates and times of the comments/correspondence and to whom the comments/correspondence were made. 

For the generalized complaints Smith is asking for some examples of discrimination they’ve experienced. 

To conclude the first steps of this complaint being made, Spencer and the 16 women were told they must provide specific particulars of the instances they are complaining about by January 10th, 2023.

Upon delivering these particulars to the BC HRT, BC Ferries will have 35 days to respond officially. 

The names of the women who have made these complaints were not included in the information required directly, although by revealing some of the particulars their identities may come to light through speculation on behalf of BC Ferries.

Curtis Blandy

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