October 30, 2009
Stephen Smysnuik, Toronto Star
Jessica Maciel had enough to worry about, being a 20-year-old single woman dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.
But then she was fired because of it.
"It’s something I felt like I was punished for at that point," Maciel said.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario agreed with her Wednesday, awarding her $35,000 in damages and lost wages more than a year after she was fired from Nino D’Arena salon in Mississauga. The beauty salon was also ordered to implement a policy that would protect women in the future.
Maciel was four months pregnant when she started working as a receptionist at the salon in August 2008. She didn’t mention her pregnancy during her job interview, knowing that if she divulged that information, she wouldn’t have gotten the job. There is no requirement under the Ontario’s Human Rights Code to advise prospective employers about a pregnancy.
But on her first day, she figured she might as well get everything out in the open. She told her boss, Cinzia Conforti, about the pregnancy. Fifteen minutes later, she was asked to leave.
The next day, Conforti called to say she was fired because she had wanted part-time, not full-time, work. Maciel said that wasn’t true – as an unemployed single mother-to-be, she needed full-time hours.
Maciel, who now works as an events coordinator at a banquet hall, said the tribunal’s decision is not just her victory, and that she hopes it gives other women in similar situations the strength to fight for what they deserve.
"It really sends the message that excluding new mothers from the workplace is not an option for employers," said her lawyer, Kate Sellars.
Sellars said Ontario’s Human Rights Legal Support Centre, which handled Maciel’s case, receives about 40 calls per week from women facing similar discrimination.
"What happened to Jessica isn’t unique, but it is illegal," Sellars said. "It takes a lot of courage and conviction to see the matter through. And she did that."