Kelowna theatre company on hook $55K for firing Billy Elliot star | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna theatre company on hook $55K for firing Billy Elliot star

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A Kelowna theatre company is on the hook for $55,000 after it fired a 14-year-old actor with multiple cognitive disabilities that it had hired to play the lead role in Billy Elliot - The Musical.

The Kelowna Actors Studio came to an agreement with the child actor to pay him $35,000 in compensation for injury to his dignity, feelings, and self-respect, after the organization emailed the actor two weeks into rehearsals and told him he no longer had the part.

The details are laid out in a May 2, BC Human Rights Tribunal Consent Order after the actor's mother launched a complaint against the theatre company arguing it had discriminated against her son who is described as a "neurodivergent performer."

The Consent Order says the child actor is an experienced and accomplished musical theatre and dance performer who has been diagnosed with several neurodivergent conditions, including Sensory Processing Disorder, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyslexia. has chosen not to name the actor as he was 14 years old at the time of the incident.

The Kelowna Actors Studio settled with the actor agreeing to pay $35,000 compensation plus, $1,200 in lost wages and $19,000 in expenses.

The Consent Order doesn't give any precise details of what took place, only that the teen was given the starring role in Billy Elliot – The Musical in 2017. This would have been the third time the 14-year-old had played the lead role of Billy Elliot.

However, a few weeks into rehearsals the Kelowna Actors Studio emailed the actor's mother terminating his employment.

"The (Kelowna Actors Studio) acknowledges that it did not meet its legal obligation to accommodate (the actor's) disabilities up to the point of undue hardship before terminating his employment," the Order reads. "These events had a significant impact on (the actor's) mental health. They also impacted his desire to perform, future career plans, and education."

The Actors Studio admitted that terminating the actor without accommodating his disabilities was discriminatory.

Along with the cash, the theatre company agreed to implement sensitivity training and educational programs for persons with learning disabilities and sensory disabilities in its theatre programs, classes, activities, and performances.

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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