Opinions on mask wearing not protected by Human Rights Code amid pandemic, B.C. tribunal warns
VANCOUVER -- The human rights complaint filed by a worker who reportedly refused to wear a mask on the job, leading to his contract being terminated, won't be pursued by a B.C. tribunal.
In a screening decision published by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Thursday, tribunal member Steven Adamson explains the complaint was set aside because it focused on the worker's "opinion that wearing a mask does not stop the transmission of COVID-19." Adamson says that opinion isn't protected by the Human Rights Code.
Explaining the circumstances leading to the file, the decision says the complainant was contracted to work "at a district facility," without releasing further details about the workplace.
"He says that, when he arrived at the facility, the manager told him he had to wear a face mask. He refused to do so, saying it was his 'religious creed' and that he would not wear a mask,'" Adamson's statement says.
"The facility manager confirmed that the worker could not enter without a mask. A senior district manager subsequently sent the worker a letter terminating his contract for not wearing a mask."
That worker then filed a human rights complaint, saying he was discriminated against based on religion. The problem is, Adamson says, the worker didn't provide enough facts "that could establish that his objection to mask-wearing is grounded in a sincerely held religious belief."
Adamson's decision says the worker argued it's a freedom of expression to show his face in the general public and that the mask requirement "infringes on his 'God-given ability to breathe.'"
"We are all made in the image of God, a big part of our image that we all identify with is our face," Adamson's decision says, quoting the worker's complaint. "To cover up our face arbitrarily dishonours God."
The worker's complaint goes on to argue that face masks aren't effective in protecting people from COVID-19, claiming data "shows no difference where masks (are) enforced."
"Forced mask-wearing does not help protect anyone from viruses," the worker's complaint says.
Adamson says the worker doesn't provide any facts showing mask wearing is prohibited by any particular religion.
"The worker's opinion that mask are ineffective is not a belief or practice protected from discrimination on the basis of religion," Adamson writes.
"While the worker states his belief that it dishonours God to cover his face absent of a basis for doing so, the worker's complaints, in essence, are about his disagreement with the reasons for the mask-wearing requirement set out in the (public health order)."
Screening decisions are one of the first steps in a tribunal investigation and are rarely released, but Adamson explained he published his findings because there have been many similar complaints since the fall.
Thursday's published decision comes a week after a similar notice was issued about a mask conflict between a customer and a store employee.