Temporary employee in Alberta says she was fired for being pregnant

Company blames misunderstanding, says there was no more work for her
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 09/18/2017

A Calgary woman says she was dismissed from her temporary position after her employer found out she was pregnant, according to CBC News.

Zahra (Mona) Deghanifard was a sewing machine operator with Calgary-based Canadian Linen and Uniform Services, hired in August 2016. Her job included handling packaged product that could weight up to 18 kilograms. In late 2016, she went on vacation to visit her family in Iran. When she returned to work in early January 2017, she found out she was pregnant and told her supervisor.

About one week later, on Jan. 16, 2017, Deghanifard called her supervisor to say she wasn't feeling well and would have to stay home for the day. She intended to come in to work the next day, but her manager sent her a text saying, “It was brought to my attention of your condition. I am sorry that I cannot take a chance of something happening to you. I am truly sorry but I cannot use you anymore.”

Deghanifard tried calling back but couldn’t reach her manager. The next day, she returned to work to show that she was healthy, she told CBC News.

“He told me, 'we are worried about you, we can't take any responsibilities.' I told him, 'I have to take responsibilities, it's me, not you,'" Deghanifard told CBC News. 

Deghanifard and her husband filed a human rights complaint in April. In response, the HR director for Canadian Linen and Uniform Services, Marilyn Johnson, wrote to the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC), “Ms. Zahra was unable to come to work due to some complications with what we learned was pregnancy-related. (The manager) became concerned for her well-being considering the work she would be required to do and indicated it was best for her not to report.”

A spokesperson for Canadian Linen and Uniform Services told CBC News that the filed statement was not completely accurate.

“(The manager) misspoke, misrepresented the situation," Ben Saukko told CBC News. Saukko also said that while the manager was personally worried about Deghanifard’s health, the real reason for Deghanifard’s dismissal was that the company had finished up an order and didn’t have any more work for her.

However, the temp agency that hired Deghanifard, Manpower, indicated to the AHRC that Canadian Linen and Uniform Services informed it that Deghanifard's assignment had ended because her manager felt the heavy lifting required in her job could be harmful to her.

Deghanifard told CBC News she heard the company hired someone after letting her go.

Sarah Coderre, an Alberta employment standards lawyer, told CBC News that the Alberta Human Rights Act prevents employers from dismissing employees for being pregnant unless there's a reason the pregnancy prevents them from doing their job and they have exhausted accommodation options.

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