Human rights tribunal tosses out complaint by worker who said he refused to wear mask because of religion

·2 min read
The worker felt that wearing a mask dishonoured God, but failed to show a religion that supported that belief. (Erik White/CBC - image credit)
The worker felt that wearing a mask dishonoured God, but failed to show a religion that supported that belief. (Erik White/CBC - image credit)

A B.C. worker who was fired for refusing to wear a mask has had his complaint dismissed by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

The worker alleged he was discriminated against based on his religion. But the tribunal disagreed.

The tribunal doesn't normally publicize its screening decisions, but due to the large volume of complaints it has received concerning the COVID-19 mask mandate, as well as public interest, it decided to release the decision.

The identities of those involved and the location of the incident have all been shielded by a publication ban.

The worker was contracted for a job at a facility. When he arrived, the supervising manager asked him to wear a mask. The worker refused, claiming it was his religious creed. He wasn't allowed to enter the work site and was later sent a termination letter by his senior district manager.

In his complaint to the tribunal, the worker argued his rights were violated because humans are all made in the image of God.

"A big part of our image that we all identify with is our face. To cover up our face arbitrarily dishonours God," wrote the worker.

He said it was his freedom of expression to show his face and his religious liberty to identify his face to others.

As well, he claimed the mask requirement infringed on his "God-given ability to breathe" and that wearing a mask does not protect anyone from viruses.

'Not a belief protected by the Code'

To successfully show that a person has been discriminated against because of their religion, they must show:

  • They are religious.

  • The respondent's conduct harmed their employment

  • Religion was a factor in the negative impact.

Tribunal member Steven Adamson decided that the worker failed to show how wearing a mask is prohibited by any specific religion.

"Rather, his objection is based on his opinion that wearing a mask does not stop the transmission of COVID‐19," he wrote.

"This is not a belief protected by the [B.C. Human Rights] Code."