If a protester shows up to an anti-vaccine mandate protest in B.C. in their work uniform and is caught on camera, their employer could argue that that connection is bringing harm to the organization’s reputation and legally fire them.
But employment lawyer Lia Moody at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP’s Vancouver office says it comes down to the difference of a “without cause termination” and a “with cause termination.”
While without cause termination is being let go for no workplace misconduct, reasons for a with cause termination include transgressing company policy, skipping out on the job, and misconduct like profanity or hate speech.
“The interesting issue here is going to be whether an employer can establish cause, and therefore not pay them severance. And I don’t think the answer is going to be yes, unless that employee is skipping out on scheduled shifts to go to these protests.”
Vaccine mandate protest: Discriminatory or not
While political belief is protected under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, it is only protected in employment in a union or occupation association, according to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
“I do think that any employer that tried to terminate a protester for cause is almost certainly going to fail. So, the question really is, ‘Were you paid enough severance? And is there an argument to be made that the termination is discriminatory?’ I don’t think so,” says Moody.
The Vancouver lawyer also points out that that political belief as a ground hasn’t been a subject of much litigation.
“We don't have a real sense of what it means to be discriminated on the basis of political belief, what are the parameters of that belief. So many people are equating the convoy with anti-Trudeau sentiment and movement, and so perhaps there's enough of political angle there,” Moody tells Glacier Media.
“It’s interesting because nobody would say that this hasn’t become a political issue. So, what does that mean in terms of these individuals' right to be protected by the human rights code?”