In a decision issued by British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal Member Devyn Cousineau on March 1, 2022 following a three-day hearing from December 6-9, 2021, an employee’s sex discrimination complaint against the Vancouver Island Health Authority (“VIHA”) was dismissed.
Complainant Suzana Kalyn had a history of making two prior human rights complaints against VIHA, and the tribunal noted at paragraphs 24 and 116 that her decision to do so was not made lightly. Her first complaint against VIHA was for terminating from her position in a male-dominated department due to her “gossiping” and generally being tenacious in raising concerns about discrimination regarding herself and other women (the “First Complaint”). In a decision issued on October 9, 2008, the Tribunal found that Ms. Kalyn’s sex (her identity as a female) was a factor in her termination. It ordered that her position as a protection services officer team leader be reinstated.
Ms. Kalyn made another complaint in the Human Rights Tribunal about VIHA reorganizing and changing her position in 2015 (the “Second Complaint”). Not much information about the Second Complaint is publicly available, as it was ultimately settled.
Ms. Kalyn continued working for VIHA. She oversaw dozens of protection services officers in the south island region. Since her return following the First Complaint, she wanted to advance in VIHA. She sought mentorship and was told that most people moving forward in management roles had Master’s degrees. So she obtained one from Royal Roads University in Health Leadership in 2014. Subsequently in 2014, she applied for a position posting at VIHA titled “Manager, Protection Services.” She was interviewed; however, she did not get the job. It was awarded to a man.
She later applied for 12-14 more positions with Island Health that she was not awarded. Island Health argued that it was because she was not qualified.
In November, 2018, the man who was previously awarded the position of “Manager, protection Services” in 2014 vacated the position. Ms. Kalyn applied. She met all of the qualifications for the position. The Executive Director had Ms. Kalyn and her colleague, who was also a team leader, share the responsibilities of the position while the hiring process was conducted. Both she and her colleague applied. He was a man who did not have a Master’s degree. He was ultimately awarded the position. The job posting required a Master’s degree or “equivalent” experience. VIHA argued that the colleague had equivalent experience. Ms. Kalyn argued that he did not.
Ms. Kalyn and two other applicants, including her colleague, participated in interviews. The interview panel ranked Ms. Kalyn’s performance last out of the three.
The Tribunal held the following about job interviews at para 95:
Interview and hiring processes always carry a degree of subjectivity, and as such are ripe
for unconsciously biased decision making that can favour certain types of applicants over
others. Ageism and sexism are two commonly held biases, as is the bias that tends to associate
white, cisgender, men with strong leadership. While it may not be realistically possible to completely eliminate biases from a hiring process, there are ways to mitigate their potential impact – a number of which were employed in the hiring process at issue here.
The Tribunal summarized its findings as follows:
 I understand why Mrs. Kalyn believes that discrimination was a factor in the decision.
She has worked hard to improve her qualifications and advance within the organization. The
Position at issue in this complaint is perhaps the management role she is best qualified for, and
she was humiliated when it was awarded to her younger male colleague. In light of her history
with Island Health, and feeling that her advancement has not been supported, she reached the
conclusion that this was another manifestation of discrimination in her employment.
 However, viewing the evidence as a whole, I am not satisfied, on a balance of
probabilities, that Mrs. Kalyn has proved that her age and/or sex were a factor in the decision –
consciously or unconsciously. I accept Island Health’s non‐discriminatory explanation as a
complete explanation for the decision to prefer Mr. L and Mr. Clarke over Mrs. Kalyn. The
allegation of discrimination is dismissed.