Supreme Court rules in case involving Langley firm

The case involved two people working for separate contractors on a Delta road project.

Discrimination cases in the workplace can invovle more than just superiors and their employees, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in a case that invovled a Langley firm.

The case began on a Delta road improvement project under construction in 2013 and 2014.

Mohammadreza Sheikhzadeh-Mashgoul was working as a civil engineer on the site for Surrey-based consulting firm Omega & Associates. Edward Schrenk worked on the same project, but he was a foreman for the Langley-based Clemas Contracting.

According to a Supreme Court summary of the case, Schrenk “made derogatory statements to Mr. Mashgoul and others with respect to Mr. Mashgoul’s place of origin, religion and sexual orientation and sent him derogatory emails.”

Omega & Associates complained to Clemas, and Schrenk was first removed from the worksite, and when the emails continued, fired.

Mashgoul then filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, claiming discrimination in employment by Schrenk.

Schrenk applied to dismiss the complaint, saying that it was not within the bounds of the tribunal’s powers, because there was not an employment relationship between the two men.

The B.C. Court of Appeal agreed with Schrenk, and ruled that the Human Rights Tribunal did not have jurisdiction.

But a majority of Supreme Court justices found for a broader interpretation of the law.

“As the foreman of the worksite, [Schrenk] was an integral and unavoidable part of [Mashgoul’s] work environment,” Justice Malcolm Rowe wrote for the majority. “[Schrenk’s] discriminatory behaviour had a detrimental impact on the workplace because it forced [Mashgoul] to contend with repeated affronts to his dignity.”

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella wrote a concurring opinion, saying the issue in question was whether employment discrimination under the B.C. Human Rights Code can happen when the harasser has no position of authority over the victim.

In this case, Mashgoul didn’t work for Schrenk, and if anything, Omega had some authority on the project over Clemas Contracting.

Human rights principles suggest that all employees are protected, Abella wrote. “Applying these principles leads to the conclusion that an employee is protected from discrimination related to or associated with his or her employment, whether or not he or she occupies a position of authority.”

Three judges, including Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin dissented. They felt that the Human Rights Code only applies to employer-employee or similar relationships.

“Therefore, the Human Rights Tribunal had no jurisdiction over the complaint,” McLachlin wrote for the minority.

The ruling means the Human Rights Tribunal does have jurisdiction over the case.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Sts’Ailes students scale glaciers as part of mountain skills and wilderness program

‘It’s not just about taking kids hiking, it’s actually about connecting them to the land’

Fraser Cascade superintendent announces retirement

Dr. Karen Nelson has worked for School District 78 for 29 years

Not over yet: Mixture of snow, freezing rain on way as winter storm tapers in Lower Mainland

Environment Canada releases weather alert for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley

FVRD seeking outdoor rec feedback

Open house meetings slated for next week

LETTER: Agassiz once a sleepy village at the end of the road

In his letter, Richard Probert shares his memories of Agassiz as it was in the ’50s and ’60s

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

B.C. offers $5 million equipment loan program to help ailing forest contractors

Local politicians in Port McNeill and Campbell River says local economies are struggling

Vancouver Island distillery wins award for best Canadian rye whisky

Shelter Point cleans up at Canadian Whisky Awards

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Dad of missing Abbotsford woman charged after allegedly exposing himself in park

Barry Shpeley charged with sexual assault and assault

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

VIDEO: Semi driver records 22 crashes in one icy trip from Chilliwack to Abbotsford

‘Treacherous’ morning had emergency crews struggling to reach stranded drivers

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Most Read