Adjudicator David A. Wright’s decision — 2012 HRTO 1977 (CanLII) — was released last October, but the case has not been widely reported. The applicant, Maria A. Vanderputten, and respondent Gerry Sanvido self-represented; David Seychell represented the company respondent, Seydaco Packaging Corp.
The adjudicator found that Vanderputten was a more credible witness than those who appeared on behalf of the company. Vanerputten admitted that some of her conduct was inappropriate.
Vanderputten was subjected to a poisoned work environment, Wright determined. The company contributed to this, insisting that Vanderputten conduct herself as a man while in the workplace until the surgery was completed. The company could have made minor renovations to give her privacy, Wright said.
“The award is justified primarily because of the seriousness of the violations of the Code I have found,” Wright found. “There were multiple ways in which Seydaco violated the Code. It insisted the applicant be treated as a man when this did not reflect her sex and gender identity, and this not only was an inherent violation of dignity but it exposed her to further harassment and comments and contributed to a poisoned work environment.
Vanderputten was awarded $22,000 for injury to her dignity and self-respect. Lost wages were assessed at eight months.
“I take into account the fact that she had a discipline record that may have led to further discipline unconnected with prohibited grounds, the applicant’s seven years of service (with a brief gap), the notorious fact that in 2010 the economy was experiencing a downturn, and the fact that at the time she was dismissed she was undergoing the process of sex reassignment, which would have made finding a job harder, given general prejudice in society against transgendered persons.”
In June 2012, an Ontario private member’s Bill, supported by all parties, amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to add “gender expression” and “gender identity” as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Some observers say the changes are substantial and that employers, service providers and landlords should understand the new protections.
The Toronto Star ran an article about the case.