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Discrimination alleged for BC maternity benefit clawback

A BC woman has filed a human rights complaint after the BC government clawed back her maternity and parental benefits in order to reimburse the province for her partner's disability payments. The woman has alleged sex discrimination, according to a media release by her legal counsel, the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS). 

According to the release, BC claws back EI maternity and parental benefits from about 150 families annually. Only women who give birth are eligible for maternity benefits and almost all recipients of parental leave in BC are female, so the allegation is that the claw back policy discriminates against families in which women are the wage earners.

The release goes on to elaborate that other repercussions of the practice are a direct impact on the poverty of families with female wage earners as well as disproportionately placing maternity and child care expenses on women instead of on the EI system where they were intended to be. 

Notably, the BC Human Rights Tribunal reportedly agreed to hear the case even though it had been filed late because of the potential impact on public interest. The Tyee also notes that this family's situation has been discussed in the provincial legislature, adding that the mother was the only person working in the three-child family since her husband suffers from paralysis and fibromyalgia. 

The Tyee elaborates further that the province does not define the EI benefits as earned income so they are not exempt from the clawback requirements. 

Anyone in BC who experiences discrimination in any aspect of employment or employment benefits should speak with an experienced lawyer about potential legal remedies under provincial or federal human rights guarantees. 

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