VANCOUVER – BC Human Rights Court dismissed a complaint by a woman who argued that a jeweler discriminated against her by refusing to serve her when she refused to put on a face mask.
The complainant, Shera Rael, was denied service at Cartwright Jewelers in New Westminster on July 31, 2020, according to the decision made by Tribunal Member Paul Singh on Thursday.
In the ruling, Singh writes that he had limited information about the complaint because Rael failed to respond to the store’s request for denial and “provided minimal information on their complaint form”.
On the form, Rael claimed she had a disability which, according to Singh’s decision, she can “wear breathing problems and not wear a mask.”
When asked what the alleged discrimination had to do with her disability, Rael wrote: “My human rights have been denied. Wearing masks is not a law. “
In response to the complaint, the jewelry store’s owner, Susan Cartwright-Coates, admitted not to service Rael, saying the store had put in place a mandatory mask policy to comply with public health orders and to allow the spread of COVID-19 impede.
“Respondents acknowledge that people with disabilities have the right to housing, which may mean exempting them from the mask requirement or finding other ways to meet their disabled needs,” said Singh in his decision. “They say, however, that Ms. Rael never told them that she was disabled or otherwise needed shelter.”
The BC Human Rights Code requires the complainant to present “alleged facts” which, if proven to be true, could, in Singh’s decision, constitute discrimination for the purposes of the Code.
The arbitrator concluded that Rael’s complaint did not meet this criterion because she did not provide enough information about the nature of her alleged disability or the harm caused by the alleged discrimination.
“Any disability discrimination complaint based on mask requirement must begin with the complainant demonstrating that he has a disability and why it affects his ability to wear the mask,” writes Singh. “Ms. Rael’s mere assertion of ‘breathing problems’ is not enough to justify a disability within the meaning of the Code.”
Singh adds that, without telling the store that her reason for refusing to wear a mask was a disability, Rael could not reasonably claim that the store should have taken her.
“Although complainants are not required, for valid privacy reasons, to provide detailed information about their disability when looking for accommodation, they should at least inform one service provider that they need some form of accessible accommodation to trigger a service provider’s duty to accommodate,” writes Singh.