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Human rights tribunal will hear complaint by disabled Highland Valley Copper employee

Highland Valley Copper Mine.
Image Credit: CONTRIBUTED/ Teck Highland Valley Copper
November 14, 2017 - 4:14 PM

LOGAN LAKE - A Highland Valley Copper employee who has been disabled ever since he was injured on the job will have his discrimination complaint against the company heard.

Andre Mikita has been a Millwright at the Logan Lake mine since 2004 and was injured at work in 2010, according to a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision.

He filed a human rights complaint against the mine's parent company Teck, and tribunal member Catherine McCreary decided Mikita's complaint would be heard by the tribunal. It doesn't mean Mikita is guaranteed to win the argument, but a tribunal member must decide whether or not the applicant would have reasonable prospect of success in a hearing.

The complaint stems from a workplace change within the copper mine which came about five years after Mikita returned to work from an on-the-job injury.

He was injured in April 2010 and had to take time off work for surgery and recovery. In February 2011, a physician said Mikita would have permanent limitations and restrictions.

Teck accommodated Mikita with a job in the mine's "tool crib" in mill maintenance. After that, Mikita underwent further medical evaluation where it was determined he wouldn't be able to perform the full duties of a journeyman millwright.

Representatives from Teck and its union, along with Mikita, met in August 2011 and agreed Mikita would be provided permanent accommodation with a position in the tool crib, commencing at the end of the month. He would receive the same pay he got as a millwright, the decision states.

Mikita says in the complaint that he would work statutory holidays in the tool crib and be compensated for it between 2011 and 2015. But in 2016, Mikita argues, Teck decided to shut down the tool crib during holidays and told Mikita to stay home, where he would collect 12 hours of pay. MIkita said working a statutory holiday could mean 32 hours of pay in one shift, so he would be missing out on 20 hours of pay.

In February of last year Teck started running a skeleton crew on statutory holidays, meaning only a handful of employees including Millwrights would work in case of mechanical breakdown. The employees who worked were based on a rotational seniority list, which Mikita used to be a part of.

Teck argues that tool crib employees aren't required to work on holidays because the duties they perform aren't necessary to that day's operation of the mine. The company states that Mikita is seeking perfect accommodation, although he has received reasonable accommodation surrounding his disabilities from the company.

Teck argues that requiring the tool crib to stay open on holidays so that Mikita could collect premium pay would create an unproductive and redundant job on a statutory holiday.

Mikita argues that there was no attempt by Teck to accommodate him during statutory holidays "to the point of undue hardship."

He says there was never any effort put into discussing what work Mikita could do, or what tasks were planned for the statutory holiday. He said Teck did not try to accommodate him, discriminating against him due to his disability.

"The circumstances of (Mikita's) work changed when Teck decided to have limited workers on statutory holidays and the accommodation job in the tool crib was not called on to do work," McCreary says in her decision. "Mr. Mikita claims that... he has missed seven shifts for which he could have earned 140 hours’ pay."

McCreary said while the union and Mikita met with Teck to determine accommodations for him after his return to work, they weren't involved again after the workplace changes were made.

She denied Teck's application to have Mikita's complaint dismissed.

Mikita's complaint also included issues surrounding his involvement with the mine's Emergency Response Team post-injury, but McCreary decided Mikita had no reasonable prospect of success pursuing that complaint.

A hearing has not yet been scheduled for the argument.


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