B.C. liquor store worker to get human rights hearing over family status discrimination (2024)

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch tried to have the complaint dismissed, saying the unionized employee's decision to work two jobs was a choice

Author of the article:

Joseph Ruttle

Published May 15, 2024Last updated 2days ago4 minute read

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B.C. liquor store worker to get human rights hearing over family status discrimination (1)

A B.C. father has won the right to a hearing of his human rights complaint against the provincial government’s liquor distribution agency.

A decision posted this week by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal upheld Byron Bach’s right to the hearing. Bach claims he was discriminated against based on his family status after he was forced to become a full-time employee, making it extremely difficult to support his non-working wife and kids with a longtime second job.

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B.C. liquor store worker to get human rights hearing over family status discrimination (2)

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The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, represented by the Ministry of Finance, applied to dismiss the complaint but was denied.

Bach had been an LDB employee, represented by the B.C. General Employees’ Union, since 1999. He also worked graveyard shifts regularly for Save-On-Foods between 2005 and April 2021. During that time, he was available for auxiliary shifts with the LDB from 2 p.m. until closing, six days a week.

“He says he did that because of his family responsibility to provide financially for his wife and three children,” read the ruling from tribunal member Jonathan Chapnick, because Bach says his wife was unable to work for health reasons.

In April 2021, the LDB changed Bach’s status from an auxiliary employee to a full-time position on a regular rotation. Bach objected and, anticipating a conflict, filed a complaint in March of that year, alleging discrimination based on family status. He said the new work schedule conflicted with his Save-On-Foods schedule.

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B.C. liquor store worker to get human rights hearing over family status discrimination (5)

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Because he couldn’t work both jobs and get enough rest, Bach said he would lose his Save-On job if he accepted the LDB’s work schedule. He asked for the right to remain an auxiliary employee so he could maintain both jobs.

The LDB denied that the schedule change amounted to discrimination, claiming Bach “is asserting a personal preference to hold a second job with another employer in order to earn a desired level of income in a manner that is most convenient to him.”

It claimed that doesn’t meet the threshold for “establishing family status discrimination,” saying “there is simply no human right to work a second job of one’s choosing.”

Chapnick dismissed the LDB application and said he is “not persuaded that (Bach) has no reasonable prospect of making his case at a hearing.”

The ruling notes a collective agreement between the LDB and the BCGEU includes a requirement of the employer to convert auxiliary employees to regular employees once a threshold of hours worked is reached. But historically, the LDB would allow workers to remain auxiliary at their request.

Bach says he “declined conversion at least 12 times in order to maintain his hours at both jobs and support his family.” Then, in June 2019, the LDB told all auxiliary employees that, starting that summer, it would strictly enforce the mandatory conversion clause.

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To avoid that, Bach reduced his availability and worked very little for several months, which he said was a financial hardship. He filed a request to review his mandatory conversion in March 2019, saying he could only work afternoon shifts so he could maintain both jobs.

He said: “all I am trying to (do) is fulfil my family duties to feed, (clothe), and provide shelter for my family.” The request was denied, with the LDB saying it would only be allowed if there were serious child care conflicts that would violate the Human Rights Code.

While trying to juggle the graveyard shifts at Save-On and morning shifts at the LDB, Bach burned through his banked vacation time then missed work seven times without permission because he “could not be in two places at once.”

Chapnick said, based on precedents, there may be issues with the fact Bach was not a primary caregiver for his children, and he may need to prove more completely his wife’s inability to work. But those are issues for a hearing, he decided.

Chapnick also rejected the LDB’s argument that Bach was able to work both jobs without disruption or hardship, noting that based on the evidence, “the tribunal could potentially find that Mr. Bach has experienced serious adverse impacts in his employment as a result of his conversion to regular status, in the form of lost work, the prospect of job loss, and the financial and other costs of using vacation time to cover portions of his conflicting work schedules in order to maintain his employment.”

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Chapnick concluded the LDB has not proven Bach’s complaint has no reasonable prospect of succeeding at a hearing, while encouraging the parties to try for a mutual compromise in the meantime to avoid further litigation.

jruttle@postmedia.com

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