Woman fired for being pregnant wins $35,000

Ontario tribunal orders salon to implement pregnant employee accommodation policy

A woman fired from a Mississauga, Ont., salon after she told her boss she was pregnant has been awarded more than $35,000 by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Jessica Maciel was four months pregnant when she started working as a full-time receptionist at Nino D'Arena salon. She hadn't disclosed her pregnancy during the interview process for fear she wouldn't get the job. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, there is no requirement to advise prospective employers about a pregnancy.

On her first day of work she told her boss, Cinzia Conforti, she was pregnant. Marciel was fired 15 minutes later.

Vice-chair Naomi Overend of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found Maciel's pregnancy was "likely the only factor in the respondents' decision to terminate her employment."

The tribunal ordered the salon to pay Maciel more than $35,000 in general damages and lost wages and benefits. It also ordered the company to implement an accommodation of pregnant employees policy.

"I was so shocked that this would happen to me in the 21st century," said Maciel. "While I am grateful that the Tribunal has ordered compensation, I am particularly glad that the company must create a policy to protect other women. This should not happen to anybody else. Employees need to know their rights and employers should know the law."

Marciel was represented in her case by Kate Stellar, a lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

"Unfortunately we continue to see hundreds of these cases of women turned away from work because of pregnancy," said Sellar, "It's hard to believe we're still fighting for the rights of women to have a job and a family. We hope this legal decision provides a reminder to Ontario's employers."

The centre gets about 40 calls each week from pregnant women concerned about losing their jobs or being told not to return to work after their maternity leave.

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