Executive director Joan Goosen and Tracy Kucey at PEARL Life Renewal Society’s Chilliwack centre. A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal recently rejected an application by PEARL to dismiss a human rights complaint by a former employee. That hearing will go ahead. (Progress file)

Human Rights Tribunal rules against Chilliwack non-profit

PEARL Life Renewal Society had applied to have former employee’s human rights complaint dismissed

A Chilliwack non-profit agency discovered that being a charity isn’t a get-out-of-jail card when it comes to human rights.

No hearing has yet been held on the substantive complaint, but a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled earlier this month against Chilliwack’s PEARL Life Renewal Society’s application to dismiss a complaint from a former employee.

PEARL is less than three years old, and works to help sexually exploited women turn their lives around.

• READ MORE: PEARL earns strong support from Chilliwack politicians

• READ MORE: Pearl Life Renewal Society hosts annual fundraiser to help get Chilliwack’s women off the streets

Virginia Pineda started working for PEARL in September 2017. In January 2018 after a performance review she was either fired or quit — a matter of dispute between the parties — and claims she was discriminated against based on a mental disability contrary to the Human Rights Code.

The details of the complaint have not yet been outlined, but the decision from August 9, 2019 related to PEARL’s application to dismiss the matter before it has been heard.

Pineda was hired as a co-ordinator and she claims she told PEARL’s executive director Joan Goosen about her psychological conditions that include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia and an eating disorder.

“The parties disagree on whether Ms. Pineda disclosed her mental disability at hiring,” according to the decision written by tribunal member Grace Chen.

It was agreed that Pineda was taking medication for her psychological conditions, and also agreed that she received positive feedback during her employment. Goosen, however, said Pineda was not a “good fit” “because she had a negative attitude towards her work and Ms. Goosen.”

Pineda insists she was terminated, and filed the complaint against PEARL alleging the non-profit discriminated against her in employment based on a mental disability contrary to section 13 of the Human Rights Code.

PEARL then filed the application to dismiss under two sections of the Code: one that the complaint does not allege acts that contravene the Code; and two, that the complaint was filed for improper motives or in bad faith.

“PEARL submits Ms. Pineda lacked professionalism, breached confidence, and had a poor attitude which were grounds for dismissal. Her employment ended because of these factors, not because of any discrimination.”

On the first reason for dismissing the complaint, Chen ruled against PEARL in that Pineda is not required to provide evidence yet. If proven, the allegations could indeed be in violation of the Human Rights Code so there is no reason to dismiss in advance.

On the second dismissal application, bad faith, Chen wrote in her decision that the respondent must meet a high standard for the Tribunal to dismiss a complaint.

“These applications are rarely successful.”

PEARL submitted that Pineda’s lawyer planted the idea of a human rights complaint in her, but Chen ruled this is normal and is nothing more than seeking legal advice. It is not an improper motive.

Whether or not Pineda quit or was fired, also does not mean the complaint was made in bad faith, Chen ruled.

PEARL also argued that Pineda got a settlement in small claims for wrongful dismissal and is now seeking more money. PEARL argued that Pineda disrespects the mission and values of PEARL, caused stress and loss of donor money.

It was here that Chen made it clear that being a non-profit does not mean an organization can violate human rights.

”There is no doubt PEARL does important work with a vulnerable group, but non-profit organizations do not have special status that inoculates them from discrimination complaints. There is nothing intrinsically improper about filing a discrimination complaint against a non-profit organization. PEARL’s non-profit status is irrelevant to whether Ms. Pineda had improper motives or filed the complaint in bad faith.”

Tribunal member Chen ruled against PEARL’s dismissal application, which means the hearing will go ahead at a future date. She reiterated in the decision that allowing the complaint to proceed only means PEARL has not provided sufficient evidence at this stage to justify dismissing the complaint. It does not mean Pineda will necessarily be successful at a hearing.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Paralyzed ex motocross champion is returning to Chilliwack for book launch

Brent Worrall says he is living proof that no one should ever give up hope

Rainbow crosswalk count will rise to 16 in Chilliwack

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Chilliwack’s Atchelitz Threshermen’s Association hosts open house to raise funds for new roofs, lighting

The association is inviting the public to check out some of Chilliwack’s farming history this weekend

Inspections find 10 out of 14 residential care facilities in Chilliwack with violations

Fraser Health regularly posts inspection reports for care homes and child care centres

Cleanup of homeless encampments near Sweltzer Creek almost complete on Chilliwack River

Next step for stewards and FVRD is conducting an inventory any other camps on the river

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met

Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday

Workers’ camp at LNG facility in Kitimat takes shape

Extensive worker camp now being assembled

Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations

Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges

238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours

Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades

Killer who fled to Taiwan day after shooting B.C. man over $80 sentenced 13 years later

The sentence comes 13 years after Shaoxin Zhang, 19, was killed in a Burnaby parking lot

Most Read