B.C. couple who fired nanny after her cancer diagnosis on hook for $46,000 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. couple who fired nanny after her cancer diagnosis on hook for $46,000

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A B.C. couple is on the hook for $46,000 for firing their nanny 18 months after she got cancer.

According to a March 22 B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision, Yoshiko and Yoshiki Shimmura hired Filipino nanny Marites Bayongan in 2018 to look after their three children.

The Vancouver couple went through the temporary foreign worker program and the recently widowed Bayongan left her own five children in the Philippines to come and work for the Shimmuras.

The decision says things went well and after two years the couple extended Bayongan's contract. They were paying $14.42 an hour.

However, several months later Bayongan was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The decision says she stopped working and had six cycles of chemotherapy. Luckily, 18 months later she was declared cancer free.

However, a couple of months before Bayongan got the all-clear she needed to extend her work visa.

The Shimmuras had to do it for her as they were her employer, but because Bayongan was sick and hadn't been working for them, the couple refused to extend the visa.

The couple argues they sought legal advice regarding the matter and were told as Bayongan hadn't been continuously working for them Bayongan she was no longer qualified for a work permit.

The decision says her work visa expired and she lost her job and healthcare.

She became depressed and felt abandoned and distressed.

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The couple argues they made their decision based on legal advice.

However, the Tribunal rules the couple had not provided evidence of this or submitted a legal opinion on whether they could have extended the visa.

The Tribunal found that because the Shimmuras did not extend her work permit they consequently terminated her employment.

"Ms. Bayongan meets all of the criteria to prove discrimination. She has established that she experienced adverse impacts connected to a disability," the Tribunal rules.

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While the couple lost the case the Tribunal points out the Shimmuras conduct was not egregious.

"In some ways, there is no question that they were supportive and empathetic to Ms. Bayongan," the Tribunal ruled. "Nonetheless, the Shimmuras’ conduct resulted in significant hardship to Ms. Bayongan, as a temporary foreign worker struggling with cancer."

While the Tribunal ruled the couple's unwillingness to extend her work visa led to her dismissal and therefore the discrimination, the decision doesn't clarify what steps the couple should have taken in the circumstances.

The Tribunal says the fact that Bayongan was ultimately able to restore her work permit shows that the requirement to continuously have worked for the Shimmuras wasn't an absolute. The Tribunal even points to a letter the Shimmuras wrote to Refugees and Citizenship Canada setting out Bayongan’s extenuating circumstances.

"(The) letter shows the good working relationship between Ms. Bayongan and the Shimmuras, as well as the empathy that the Shimmuras had for Ms. Bayongan’s plight," the Tribunal rules.

However, the Tribunal says by the time the letter was sent the "damage was done."

"Ms. Bayongan had already lost her work permit, employment, status in Canada, and health benefits," the Tribunal rules.

Ultimately, the Tribunal ordered the Shimmuras to pay $19,360 in lost wages and $25,000 in damages for injury to dignity.

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"At a time when Ms. Bayongan was battling cancer, she lost her employment, status in Canada, and health benefits. Instead of focusing on recovery, and earning an income again to support her family, she had to divert her time and energy to find a new employer, attempt to restore her work permit, and go into debt to receive critical health care," the Tribunal rules.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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