Photo by Tom Zytaruk

Surrey court clerk files human rights complaint related to concussion

Deborah A. Ryane claims her employer discriminated against her on basis of mental disability

A Surrey provincial court clerk has lodged a human rights complaint alleging she was discriminated against in her employment on the basis of a mental disability.

Deborah A. Ryane filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The respondents are the Queen, Surrey Provincial Court Services, Laura Singer and Katharine Morrison.

The Tribunal heard Ryane began working in a new location several months after an accident that left her with a severe concussion. She had been hit by a car and was thrown off her bicycle on May 11, 2016, resulting in short-term memory issues, difficulty focusing, anxiety and depression.

She alleges that Court Services didn’t accommodate her disability, resulting in her needing to take a medical leave of absence.

She claims Morrison, as a manager at Surrey provincial court, and Singer, as a senior manager there, discriminated against her. They deny the accusation and applied to have Ryane’s complaint dismissed. None of the claims have yet been proven or disproven in a hearing before the tribunal.

Tribunal member Norman Trerise heard that Ryane began working as a clerk at the Vancouver Law Courts on Nov. 15, 2011 and on Nov. 18, 2015 had advised Singer she wished to apply for a transfer to Surrey provincial court as she had friends in White Rock and wanted to be closer to her son, who was in the navy. Conversely, Ryane said she did not say she wanted to be in Surrey but wanted to leave downtown Vancouver because she afraid of being hit by another car and no longer felt comfortable riding her bike to and from work there.

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She was granted a “suitability” interview on Sept. 9, 2016. The respondents claim she didn’t tell the interviewers she had cognitive disabilities that would limit or restrict her job duties.

“They say that Ms. Singer advised that Surrey provincial court was a busy, high-volume court but that Ms. Ryane advised that she loved a challenge and would have no issue with the volume of work at Surrey court because she enjoyed being busy,” Trerise noted in his July 19 reasons for decision.

Ryane claimed she was provided with no training in performing her new job in Surrey and that the resulting pressure resulted in her needing to take a medical leave of absence in the spring of 2017. The respondents, on the other hand, claim she received numerous training days.

The Tribunal heard that a doctor’s certificate in March 2017 stated Ryane was unable to return to Surrey provincial court because of her medical condition but she could return to work on May 29, 2017 at a different courthouse such as Kamloops.

Ryane claimed the respondents were responsible for a delay in paperwork that resulted in her not returning to work until she learned of a position in Kamloops on June 29, 2018.

The respondents maintain they were not responsible for the delay.

Trerise decided to deny the respondents’ application to have dismissed Ryane’s allegations that Surrey provincial court services failed to accommodate her move to the Surrey court by failing to provide suitable training. Conversely, he also dismissed Ryane’s complaint that Surrey Provincial Court Services and Singer discriminated against her by delaying her return to work.

“This decision should not be taken as a finding that the complaint is likely to succeed on the remaining issue at the hearing of this matter,” Trerise noted. “I would suggest that the parties avail themselves of the Tribunal’s mediation processes and attempt to resolve this issue prior to hearing.”



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