A woman who worked as a cleaner for Molly Maid in Metro Vancouver has filed a human rights complaint alleging the company fired her because she needed to attend emergency medical appointments for complications with her pregnancy.
The maid service applied to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it has offered the cleaner, Katelyn Jansen, a reasonable settlement of about $10,500 for damages for injury to dignity and wages lost.
Jansen argued that amount wasn’t enough. She also wants the company to create and implement a policy on pregnant women in the workplace.
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal recently sided with Jansen and denied the company’s application, paving the way for the case to go forward.
In an affidavit filed as part of her response to Molly Maid’s application, Jansen said, 15 months later, she still feels hurt by the company’s decision to dismiss her.
Jansen said the appointments she attended at the time were to find out if her baby would be born with a “serious, life-altering disability.”
“I was in the most emotionally fragile and vulnerable place that I had been in in my life,” she said.
Molly Maid’s lawyer says the company takes issue with some of Jansen’s assertions. The decison notes that the company said it didn’t fire her, but instead assumed she had quit because she hadn’t contacted them for six days.
West Coast LEAF, a legal organization that supports gender equality, wouldn’t comment on the validity of the complaint but said many employers are still unaware of their obligation to reasonably accommodate pregnant women at work.
“We do hear quite regularly about challenges for pregnant women to receive proper accommodation in their employment,” said Raji Mangat, the organization’s director of litigation.
“Certainly in a field where many, if not most, of the employees are women, it would seem that the employer ought to have some sort of contingency plan in place.”
According to the decision, Jansen had to miss work the first time beginning on July 31, 2017. She was 21 and four months pregnant and had been working for the company since February of that year.
In her affidavit, Jansen says she had scheduled an ultrasound for that day, but the Molly Maid asked her to reschedule it because the end of the month is its busiest time.
Jansen said on the night of July 30 she went to hospital after she experienced “excruciating abdominal pain” and bleeding.
The next day, Jansen said in her affidavit, she met with her doctor and proceeded with the ultrasound, which she said she had forgotten to cancel.
Her employer was skeptical, she said.
“So weird it’s on the day you have twice requested off????” Jansen said one of the owners texted when she told them she couldn’t work.
Jansen said she interpreted the response to indicate the owner wasn’t concerned about her condition.
‘Angry and powerless’
Over the course of the next two weeks, according to Jansen’s affidavit, she attended more medical appointments — some outside of work hours, others not — and discovered her baby likely would be born with a genetic disorder.
“I felt scared and helpless. At the time, I could not focus on anything else,” Jansen wrote in her affidavit.
In her affidavit Jansen said she last worked on Thursday, Aug. 10 when she left early to attend a medical appointment.
The following Monday, Jansen said her midwife informed the company she would again have to miss work to attend a medical appointment the next day.
By Wednesday, Aug. 16, Jansen told the company she could return to work. But Molly Maid told her they assumed she wasn’t returning because they hadn’t heard from her in six days.
Jansen said Molly Maid told her it had already issued her final cheque and a Record of Employment stating that she had quit. In her affidavit, Jansen said she felt “dumbfounded and sick and hurt and angry and powerless.”
Jansen’s baby was born on Dec. 26, 2017. Jansen said the child is legally blind, with only one functioning kidney and a club foot.
Her complaint is scheduled for a trial at the tribunal in February.