B.C. Human Rights Tribunal denies City of Kamloops application to dismiss employee complaint | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Human Rights Tribunal denies City of Kamloops application to dismiss employee complaint

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KAMLOOPS — The City of Kamloops has failed in its bid to have a human-rights complaint dismissed by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Peter Spina has worked with the City for more than two decades as a solid waste truck operator. He is the son of former Kamloops city councillor, Margaret Spina, and a relative of a sub-foreman in his department at the city.

Spina says since 2011 he has been subjected to discriminatory bullying and harassment by a coworker who allegedly called him names such as ‘Italian wannabe’, ‘faggot, ‘homo’, and ‘cock sucker’, according to a Human Rights Tribunal decision filed May 30.

The decision says the City denies discriminating against Spina.

“(The City) has applied to have the complaint dismissed because Mr. Spina filed it late,” Tribunal Member Pamela Murray says in her decision.

However, Spina says he began reporting incidents of harassment to the City in 2011 and took many steps to avoid his coworker including taking positions in other departments, taking sick time, vacation time and missing additional days of work without pay.

The decision says he also took temporary positions where he received less pay to avoid his coworker.

The Tribunal accepted Spina’s complaint as discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, ancestry and family status. Murray says Spina withdrew his complaint in February of this year.

“He did so because he was concerned about the coworker continuing to abuse him and also retaliating against him,” Murray says.

In a specific incident in November 2017,  Spina was returning from a temporary position in another department at the City where he had been for much of 2017. On his second day of work after a leave, the unnamed coworker proceeded to bump Spina and proceeded to ‘mock laugh’ in the garage of the solid waste department.

Spina reported it to the manager and went home. The next day, an investigation meeting was held and the city also reported to the incident to the RCMP.

The City's Human Rights director says while she did hear of one allegation from Spina in 2011, she only learned of most his allegations in 2016.

"At that time (the Human Rights Director) appointed an external investigator to investigate Mr. Spina's allegations," the decision says."Mr. Spina, however, says he complained to others including managers in his department about his coworker's alleged behavior."

After investigating further, the City says it gave the coworker a five-day suspension without pay and required the employee to attend bullying and harassment training.

"The City also says it took steps to ensure Mr. Spina and his coworker no longer work together and returned Mr. Spina to his solid waste operator position," Murray says in her ruling.

The City argues the Tribunal should dismiss the complaint because it has investigated and remedied the allegations about which Spina complains about. The City argues they were responsive to the substance of Spina's complaints and took remedial steps that were porportionate both to the gravity of the coworker's conduct and the negative impact on Spina.

Spina says although the city did remedy one part of the complaint by relocating his coworker, they did not replace any of Spina's lost time.

"(Spina) alleges the City told him the only avenue for compensation for lost wage is through the Tribunal," Murray says. "He also says elsewhere that he has been significantly affected by the conduct alleged in the complaint."

Murray encourages the parties to take advantage of the Tribunal's mediation services.

To read the full decision go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 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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