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UBC faces human rights complaint from former professor

The BC Human Rights Code provides employees in the province with a variety of workplace protections. One of those protections is from acts of discrimination. When an employee believes that he or she has been discriminated against, they can file a claim with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. In turn, those complaints may go to a hearing in front of a tribunal, which will then determine whether the actions of the employer did in fact rise to the level of violating the Code. 

There are multiple grounds upon which most employees are protected from discrimination. These include:

  • Race;
  • Colour;
  • Ancestry;
  • Place of origin;
  • Marital status;
  • Family status; and
  • Sex.

Generally, claims are made that allege discrimination on the basis of one or two of these grounds. Recently however, a former law professor at UBC alleged the University discriminated against her on the basis of all of these (the grounds of family status and marital status were not accepted for filing by the Tribunal).

Specifically at issue is the woman's claim that the University's requirement that scholars publish in academic journals goes against indigenous oral traditions. She asserts that the indigenous tradition of disseminating knowledge orally is equivalent to publishing in peer-reviewed journals. After 12 years she was dismissed from her position as a tenure track assistant professor, having not published any peer reviewed articles during that time. 

The university disagrees with the woman's allegations, claiming that despite interpreting their collective agreement broadly, sharing information orally is not the same as disseminating it via peer-reviewed journals.

Making claims of this nature and defending against them is often complicated. It is important that both sides to a dispute work with employment lawyers who are familiar with these types of cases and with the processes used in the course of resolving the matter.

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