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B.C. theatre to pay $55K to neurodivergent actor in discrimination case

A stage actor is pictured in an undated stock photo. (Shutterstock) A stage actor is pictured in an undated stock photo. (Shutterstock)
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British Columbia's human rights tribunal has awarded a neurodivergent actor, who was diagnosed with sensory and learning disorders, more than $55,000 after finding that a Kelowna theatre company discriminated against him because of his disabilities.

The tribunal reached a decision in the case on May 2, formalizing a financial settlement agreement between the actor, Maurice Kimball, and the Kelowna Actors Studio.

Under the terms of the agreement, the theatre will pay the actor $35,000 for injury to his dignity, feelings, and self-respect; $18,998 for expenses incurred as a result of the discriminatory conduct; and $1,200 for lost wages, plus interest.

Kimball's mother brought the claim to the tribunal on Dec. 15, 2017, when the actor was 14 years old.

Earlier that year, the theatre company hired Kimball to play the lead role in its production of Billy Elliot: The Musical, a role he had performed elsewhere twice before, according to the tribunal's decision.

Kimball attended his first rehearsal for the part in June of that year. But less than three weeks later, his mother received an email from the theatre saying it was terminating the actor's employment.

While the company's reasons for firing the actor are not outlined in the tribunal's decision, tribunal member Andrew Robb wrote that the theatre "acknowledges that it did not meet its legal obligation to accommodate Mr. Kimball’s disabilities up to the point of undue hardship before terminating his employment."

The tribunal did not hold a hearing into the matter because the actor and the studio reached a settlement agreement privately. However, both parties asked the tribunal to enter the facts and remedies of the case into a formal consent order.

As part of that background, both sides agreed that Kimball is an "experienced and accomplished musical theatre and dance performer."

They acknowledged that Kimball had been diagnosed with "certain disabilities that are considered neurodivergent conditions, including sensory processing disorder, central auditory processing disorder," as well as learning disorders related to math, reading and writing.

The tribunal says the discrimination has had a significant impact on the actor's mental health, affecting his future career plans, education and his desire to continue performing.

As part of the consent order, the theatre company agreed to pay the actor $55,198 in remedies and avoid discriminating in similar circumstances in the future.

The tribunal also ordered the Kelowna Actors Studio to implement sensitivity training and education in the workplace and adopt an employment equity program to accommodate those with learning and sensory disabilities in its classes and productions.

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