BC Human Rights Tribunal Dismisses Complaint by Worker who Claimed Mask Could not be Worn for Religious Reasons

The BC Human Rights Tribunal issued a screening decision on April 8, 2021 in the case of a worker who refused to wear a mask at a job site.

The worker was contracted for a job. When he arrived at the site, the supervisor asked him to wear a mask. The worker refused based on his religion. He was not allowed to enter the work site and his contract was later terminated. 

The worker filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal alleging discrimination. Specifically, the worker alleged that, by requiring him to wear a mask, the site had discriminated against him based on his religion, in contravention of the BC Human Rights Code (the “Code”). 

The worker alleged that his rights were violated because humans are all made in the image of God. He wrote, “A big part of our image that we all identify with is our face. To cover up our face arbitrarily dishonours God”. He said it was his freedom to express himself by showing his face, and it was his religious liberty to identify his face to others. He also claimed the mask requirement infringed on his, “God-given ability to breathe”.

In his complaint, the worker also wrote about the ineffectiveness of masks. 

For his beliefs to be protected by the Code, the worker needed to show that he sincerely believed that the belief or practice (a) has a connection with religion; and (b) is “experientially religious in nature”. Here, the worker’s complaint was really based on his disagreement about the efficacy of wearing masks. The worker could not establish either of the two elements required to prove discrimination based on religion.

The Tribunal dismissed the worker’s complaint.  The full text of the decision can be found here.

This case serves as a useful reminder that personal preferences are not enough to support a complaint of discrimination. When claiming protection for religious beliefs, the complainant must prove their beliefs are sufficiently connected to religion, and then prove adverse treatment connected to those religious beliefs.  

This update was authored by Harper Grey lawyer, Scott Marcinkow. Have questions regarding this post? Contact Scott at smarcinkow@harpergrey.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.