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16 female workers at B.C. Ferries file human rights complaint

The group says they feel different, unwelcome, humiliated and unsafe in the workplace.
Police called after anti-mask protesters cause disturbance on Horseshoe Bay  ferry BC Ferries
BC Ferries is facing a human rights complaint from female workers.

Sixteen female employees working in the engineering department for B.C. Ferries have filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint alleging a “climate of harassment and bullying of women” in the workplace.

The complaint says women are singled out as different in the engine room, excluded in correspondence addressed to “gents,” and lack changing space, despite being required to change at work.

The complaint also said women can be interrupted while they are changing, must pass through men’s changing spaces to access toilet or shower facilities, and have insufficient receptacles to dispose of feminine hygiene products.

“The lack of facilities draws focus to their status as women, causes them to feel different, unwelcome, humiliated, and unsafe in the workplace,” the complaint says.

“Group members experience negative remarks about period-related mood changes, and about their separate status as women. For example, one chief engineer said, regarding a six-year employee group member: ‘I need to behave today because we have ‘company’ in the engine room.’ ”

The Nov. 15 tribunal document noted women workers are routinely referred to as “girls.”

The events are alleged to have occurred on an ongoing basis from December 2019 to December 2020.

B.C. Ferries has asked for more information on the allegations, including who was involved, when the events happened and what is alleged to have occurred. It also asks for the names of the 16 women.

Laurence Grey Spencer, the representative who brought the complaint forward, says disclosing the names would put the group in danger.

Tribunal member Kathleen Smith declined to order the disclosure of the names, saying she was satisfied with the description of the alleged victims being workers in the engineering department.

While the allegation that the women could be in danger if they are named is serious, Smith said, Spencer provides no evidence to support it. “It is my expectation that a party alleging exposure to danger will provide the necessary evidence for the tribunal to make a decision,” she said.

Noting that five out of the seven allegations refer to specific alleged incidents of discrimination, Smith said she agrees with B.C. Ferries that basic facts such as who was involved, when the event happened and what happened are missing from the complaint.

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

Spencer must provide the particulars by no later than Jan. 10. The response from B.C. Ferries is due 35 days later.

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