BC Human Rights Tribunal (The Canadian Press)

Former worker at Surrey brewery claims he was bullied on the job

Human rights complaint to be heard against Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd.

The case of a former worker at Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd. who claims he was bullied on the job will be heard by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after it denied the brewery’s application to have his complaint dismissed.

Seyed-Sepehr Seyed-Ali alleges he was “bullied and harassed” by a co-worker “for reasons connected to his ethnicity” and then the brewery “terminated his employment for reasons connected to his ethnicity and/or mental disability,” Tribunal member Devyn Cousineau noted in her Sept. 17 reasons for decision.

Cousineau heard Seyed-Ali, who is originally from the Middle East, began working for the brewery on Feb. 19, 2018 on a seven-month contract and, according to the complainant, was “almost immediately” subjected to “abusive and bullying behaviour from a co-worker who, “it appears undisputed,” mimicked him, “using an accent and slight limp.”

Cousineau noted that following an investigation by human resources the co-worker “received a written warning letter about his communications in the workplace, including yelling and talking down to his colleagues.”

Seyed-Ali, the tribunal member said, described the investigation report as “incomplete, confusing and not impartial.” In a letter to his supervisor, the complainant wrote, “I love beer and the science behind it but also value my safety and sanity.”

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Cousineau noted that on Aug. 27, 2018, Seyed-Ali filed a bullying and harassment complaint with WorkSafeBC, which reviewed the brewery’s policies and actions and “concluded that its investigation into Mr. Seyed‐Ali’s complaints complied with its obligations and no further action was necessary.” He also filed a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch, which found that the brewery “did not have just cause” to dismiss him.

The co-worker’s employment has also been terminated.

The brewery asked the tribunal to dismiss Seyed-Ali’s complaint without a hearing, arguing it had no reasonable prospect of success and “it would not further the Code’s purposes to continue because the issue has already been remedied,” Cousineau said. She noted while she cannot make findings of fact, “the only question I have to answer is whether, in light of all the evidence before me, there is no reasonable prospect that Mr. Seyed-Ali’s complaint could succeed at a hearing.

“Again, the threshold is low: Mr. Seyed-Ali must only take his complaint out of the realm of conjecture.”

READ ALSO: Surrey brewery distilling hand sanitizer in effort to fight pandemic

Cousineau did dismiss Seyed-Ali’s allegation of discrimination based on mental disability, finding it “has not reasonable prospect of success,” but said there was nothing before her to permit her to conclude that the brewery “acknowledged discrimination and deal with it” and in these circumstances cannot dismiss Seyed-Ali’s complaint.

The tribunal member determined that, “based on all of the evidence and argument now before me,” she is “persuaded that this can only be done after a hearing on the merits of Mr. Seyed‐Ali’s complaint.

“The application to dismiss the complaint is denied,” Cosineau concluded. “The case manager will contact the parties to schedule a hearing. I encourage them to also take advantage of the Tribunal’s free mediation service, which may offer them a more timely resolution of the complaint, on their own terms.”

Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd. is located at 11411 Bridgeview Drive.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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