2 min

Fired for being HIV-positive?

Gay man alleges he was fired by Bell subsidiary for getting sick

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear Graham Hoye's complaint against Nordia Inc. Credit: Courtesy of Graham Hoye

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear a complaint from a gay, HIV-positive man who believes he was fired by a subsidiary of communications giant Bell Canada because he has HIV.

Graham Hoye, 40, filed his complaint with the tribunal Feb 10 after he was fired by national telecommunications company Nordia Inc, a joint venture company involving Bell Canada.

On July 25, tribunal member Diana Juricevic issued a letter to Hoye and his former employer, Nordia in Nanaimo, saying the complaint had been accepted as one of potential discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Juricevic writes that Hoye was terminated as a call-centre employee for Nordia after missing several days of training due to illness, despite informing his supervisor he is HIV-positive.

“In my view, Mr Hoye has provided sufficient particulars to support his claim that he has a physical disability, that he was treated adversely in his employment and there is a connection between his physical disability and the adverse treatment,” Juricevic writes.

Hoye, who emigrated from the UK in 2002 and is a Canadian citizen, was diagnosed with HIV in 2005.

He says he began work at Nordia in November 2011 and passed three company exams with high marks.

He was then told he had to take a training course in January. If he missed 16 hours, he would be fired, he says Nordia warned him.

On the Sunday of the second week of training, he fell ill with pneumonia and called in sick the two following days.

“They said, ‘You have to have an extreme reason or you’ll get fired,'” Hoye says. “I said, ‘I’ve got HIV. Is that extreme enough?'”

Despite being ill, he says he promptly delivered a doctor’s note to his supervisors.

“The next day they said, ‘You’re not coming back to Nordia,'” Hoye alleges.

Hoye says the company wouldn’t give him a reason for terminating his contract, other than his missing 16 hours of training.

Nordia’s Nanaimo office could not be reached for comment.

Bell spokesperson Mark Langton says the company can’t comment as the case is before the tribunal.

Micheal Vonn, policy director at the BC Civil Liberties Association, says the case, though only in its preliminary stages, may be similar to those of women being fired for becoming pregnant.

“Sometimes we need to be reminded what the law is,” Vonn says.

Vonn says employers have a duty to accommodate their employees’ disabilities, even if that constitutes a hardship for the company.

In the case of a large company, though, it becomes more difficult to claim a hardship, Vonn notes.

“The evidence in these cases can be complex,” Vonn acknowledges.

But the standard is clear, she says. “There’s a lot of ‘what year is it anyway’ going on.”

Tribunal spokesperson Steve Adamson tells Xtra the case is not yet set for a hearing, so neither the complaint nor the company’s response can be publicly distributed.

Hoye says Nordia has not yet filed a response with the tribunal.

Hoye says he has asked for a settlement but wants people to know about the case and his alleged mistreatment. “They’re not going to treat me like this,” he says.