Thursday, July 03, 2008

Headline #3 of the Day

Dad denied bereavement leave after baby's death

Gerry Bellett, Vancovuer Sun, Thursday July 3

ertz Canada Ltd. has failed to persuade the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to dismiss a complaint by an employee who claims he was denied bereavement leave from his job at Vancouver International Airport to deal with the death of his prematurely born daughter.

The car rental company is also being sued by the employee, Ali Mahdi, for religious discrimination by deducting pay for the time he spends praying each day to practise his Muslim faith.

Hertz applied to have both complaints dismissed by the tribunal, but member Tonie Beharrell said the company didn't provide grounds to show why either complaint shouldn't be considered.

According to Mahdi, his wife gave birth to a baby girl at 21 weeks of gestation in March, 2007, but the baby died the same day.

When he asked for bereavement leave, he was told he was ineligible because the child was stillborn and would have had to live longer than 24 hours for him to receive a leave.

Beharrell said there was a dispute between the parties over whether the child was stillborn or had survived birth only to die later.

The company had argued that a stillborn child "is not a child for the purposes of bereavement leave," so Mahdi was not granted leave.

As for the claims of religious discrimination, Mahdi is required to pray five times a day at times that vary during the year and which sometimes require him to pray while at work.

While the parties disagreed about how much time Mahdi spends at prayer while at work, they agreed that the punch-clock indicates he takes four minutes a day.

Accordingly, the company has been deducting 20 minutes pay per week from Mahdi's wages.

The company claims it has accommodated his need to pray and that it would constitute undue hardship to have to pay him for time not spent working.

Mahdi argued that other employees absent from work for similar periods were not docked pay.

Beharrell ruled that the dispute would go before the tribunal to be settled.

I pointed this article out to a colleague. He and I agreed that grief is grief regardless of whether this was a still born or whether the baby lived a few hours before death. The end result is a loss for both the mother and father. Grief isn't always about physical death, but in this case it was also the death of a dream and the hopes and plans that these parents had. My colleague and I talked about the seeming injustice presented in the article in that the company refused to acknowledge this man's grief. Despite the fact that the child did not live long enough to form a bond with the parents, there was still a relationship that was lost. This is to be acknowledged.

This article also screams injustice at punishing a man for practicing his faith on "company time". All employees are entitled to breaks, paid or not.

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