Shuswap Christian loses human rights case against Askew's Foods | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Shuswap Christian loses human rights case against Askew's Foods

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February 22, 2020 - 8:00 AM

A Sicamous cake decorator has lost a case against Askew's Foods where she alleged the grocery store discriminated against her because she is a Christian.

According to a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision Feb. 20, Seventh-Day Adventist Christian Janet Letendre launched the case again Askew's Foods in Sicamous claiming she was subjected to bullying and harassment, along with being made to work on Saturdays.

Seventh-Day Adventist Christians recognize Saturday as the Sabbath and according to the decision, Letendre was told by Askew's she had to work Saturday shifts. The cake decorator also alleged the bakery manager bullied and harassed her, her hours were reduced, she was denied a transfer to another Askew’s store, and the company purposely changed her shifts as a way of trying to get her to quit.

Askew's denied the allegations and applied to the tribunal to dismiss the case.

Letendre started working at Askew's in April 2017 and told her employer when she was hired she couldn't work Saturdays. The decision says Letendre primarily worked as a cake decorator and "was a very good one."

It seems issues started to arise in April 2018 when her relationship with the bakery manager started to deteriorate after an incident over the ordering of supplies. Letendre says after the incident the bakery manager started to "relentlessly bully and harass her." Askew’s denied the allegation.

Two months later Letendre was scheduled for two Saturday shifts. In the decision, the bakery manager said Letendre agreed to work the shifts and that at no time did she believe that working the shifts "offended" Letendre’s religious convictions.

Letendre disputed this, saying she did not agree to work the Saturday shift, but "was told that she had to."

Not long after these events in July 2018, Letendre went on leave due to work-related stress.

Askew’s denied discriminating against Letendre saying it accommodated her religious beliefs.

The decision also said Letendre has filed at least two WorkSafe B.C. claims, although it doesn't specify details of the claims, the decision indicates the complaints involve Askew's.

Letendre provided evidence in the form of text messages, written statements from former co-workers, excerpts from the department’s communication book, and medical evidence from her doctor indicating that she experienced significant workplace-related stress because of interactions with the bakery manager.

Tribunal Member Beverley Froese said while it is evident there were ongoing issues between Letendre and the bakery manager, the source of the conflict relates solely to workplace issues.

"There is no evidence in the materials before me suggesting that Ms. Letendre’s religion was a factor in these workplace issues," Froese said.

Froese said there is conflicting evidence on whether Letendre agreed to work the Saturday shifts or was told she had to. The tribunal member said Letendre does not appear to dispute that when she started working at the grocery store she told Askew's she was willing to work the occasional Saturday if needed. The decision said Letendre worked the occasional Saturday over the course of her employment.

In dismissing the case, Froese concluded Letendre had no reasonable prospect of establishing that being scheduled to work Saturdays had an adverse impact connected with her religion.

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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