Three Alberta women win human rights complaint against Canadian National

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has sided with three women from Jasper, Alta., who lost their positions with the Canadian National Railway in 2005.

EDMONTON — The Canadian Human Rights Commission has sided with three women from Jasper, Alta., who lost their positions with the Canadian National Railway in 2005.

The trio were fired after refusing to accept transfers to British Columbia, citing family reasons.

In three separate rulings, the tribunal determined Cindy Richards, Kasha Whyte and Denise Seeley should be back on the job.

The tribunal also ruled they should be reimbursed for lost pay and benefits incurred since their dismissal.

CN has also been ordered to grant them an additional $35,000 each in compensation.

Representatives from the commission say the cases demonstrate that parents are protected from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In Richards’ case, the tribunal ruled, “CN’s managers never met with her. They never allowed her the opportunity to present and explain her needs, nor did they ask any questions to fully understand her request.”

Richards, who had relocated to Charlottetown, P.E.I., said she will now move back to Jasper and looks forward to once again “riding the rails.”

“I’m not sure what CN will learn, but hopefully they will understand the rights they need to respect,” she said.

“It’s been a really long journey, these last five years,” said Whyte, explaining she had to turn down the original transfer because “there’s certain times in parents’ and kids’ lives when they need to be there.”

She said she looks forward to being back on the job.

“I loved my job as a railroader, I always did,” she said. “I’m ecstatic.”

Seeley also said she is looking forward to returning to work.

Labour lawyer Daniel Bokenfohr said the rulings will not change employers’ ability to demand transfers but it will mean they’ll have to be more careful how they go about it.

“Any employer can still justify a particular practice such as requiring transfers if they can prove that it’s necessary for their operation and they’ve done everything they can, reasonably, to accommodate,” said Bokenfohr.

CN will only say it is reviewing the ruling. There is no word yet on whether the railroad is planning to appeal the decision.

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