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BC Ferries engineers told to provide more detail on sexual harassment claims

16 women say they face bullying, discrimination based on gender, sex
The space behind the switchboard on the Queen of Cumberland where women engineers have been changing into their coveralls. This space cannot be locked and has five separate entrances, says lawyer Adrienne Smith. Crew members often need to enter to get equipment. This space is typical of spaces where women engineers change, Smith says. (Courtesy of Adrienne Smith)

Two years after 16 female BC Ferries engineers first filed a human rights complaint against their employer, B.C.’s human rights tribunal has ruled the women need to provide more specific detail on how they were sexually harassed and bullied.

While the women have remained anonymous, their union engineering representative Laurence Spencer claims the group has faced sex and gender-based discrimination at BC Ferries for decades.

In their December 2021 complaint, the group says they are forced to get dressed in random areas around the boat because there are no change rooms for women. The washrooms they can change in can only be accessed by walking through the men’s changing space, according to the claim. The group also says they aren’t provided with any means of disposing of period products.

READ ALSO: Human rights complaint filed over private change rooms for female BC Ferries engineers

The women further say they are subjected to bullying and harassment, including being called “girls,” having male engineers make negative comments about period-related mood changes, and having a chief engineer say “I need to behave today because we have ‘company’ in the engine room” when referring to the women. The women also say all work correspondence is only addressed to “gents” and that comments are routinely made to single them out or humiliate them.

BC Ferries was supposed to file its response to the complaint by May 25, 2022, but two weeks prior to the deadline it instead submitted an application requesting that the female engineers provide more details on their experiences and identify themselves by name.

In her Nov. 15 ruling, human rights tribunal member Kathleen Smith agreed with BC Ferries, in part. She said the women do need to be more specific about the bullying and harassment they have faced, but that they don’t need to provide more information on the other issues and that they don’t need to identify themselves.

Their representative, Spencer, is ordered to provide the additional information by Jan. 10, 2023. BC Ferries will then have 35 days to file its response.


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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

Hi, I'm a provincial reporter with Black Press Media, where I've worked since 2020.
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