Human rights complaint against Michaels in Kelowna to be heard - InfoNews

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Human rights complaint against Michaels in Kelowna to be heard

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May 01, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - A former manager of the Michaels store in Kelowna will have her complaint against the company heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Nicole Campbell claims she was discriminated against based on a physical disability. She was on medical leave from her job with Michaels when she alleges the company hired someone to replace her.

A Human Rights Tribunal member says in a decision from last week that a hearing is necessary to resolve Campbell's complaints about Michaels.

Campbell was working in Medicine Hat, Alta. when the company approached her about relocating to Kelowna in the fall of 2013. She agreed and began working at the Kelowna location as store manager.

She went on a medical leave on Nov. 1, 2014 and an assistant manager covered her duties while the company searched for a temporary manager.

Jonathan Sparks, Human Resources director for Michaels, said during his deposition that in March 2015, it was not apparent whether or not Campbell would be returning to work, so the company sought a new permanent manager. Michaels claims that by this point, conditions at the Kelowna store had deteriorated, including in staff performance and morale. They say immediate and permanent leadership was required to bring the store up to standards.

The company addressed a letter to Campbell on March 10.

"Your extended absence has created a hardship to the store that can no longer continue," the letter says. "Given the uncertainty surrounding your return, the store’s remote location and business needs, we will need to fill the store manager position on a permanent basis."

The company offered to place her in a different position when she was able to return to work. Campbell had a tentative return date of March 31 and says she didn't take the letter to mean she was losing her job or position.

Campbell's leave was extended to the end of April, when her doctor cleared her to go back to work with restrictions such as not standing for more than two hours, not climbing ladders and taking her medication.

Campbell claims the Reed Group, a company hired by Michaels to oversee her medical leave, advised her return to work had been "rejected" and her leave was extended to the end of July. But the Reed Group says Campbell requested to remain on leave until the end of July.

Campbell contacted Michaels in May about returning to work at her position. Michaels told her the full-time position had been filled and that there were no management openings at the Kelowna location.

"The Complainant deposes that this was the first time she had heard directly that her employment was at risk as a result of her medical leave of absence," the decision states. "She says that she had just relocated to Kelowna in 2014, had just gotten settled, was getting married, and was not contemplating moving just because she had taken a medical leave."

Campbell advised the company that she understood the hiring of a replacement while she was on medical leave amounted to discrimination and wrongful dismissal. The company offered a separation package to Campbell which she rejected.

The Tribunal staff member who authored the decision said they weren't in a position to try and figure out what actually transpired and felt a hearing would be necessary to sort the issues out.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 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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