TORONTO — In what could be a precedent setting decision, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled in an interim decision that an applicant’s “miscarriage is a disability.”
Wenying “Winnie” Mou claims she was dismissed from her job because of a combination of a factors in 2013, including the death of her mother-in-law and the loss of a pregnancy.
She says those events triggered a severe and disabling depression, and soon after she was fired.
Mou’s lawyer brought the case to the Human Rights Tribunal, where they alleged “discrimination with respect to employment because of disability contrary to the Human Rights Code.”
Tribunal adjudicator Jennifer Scott ruled in Mou’s favour, writing, “I also find the applicant’s miscarriage is a disability.”
“It is clear from the applicant’s testimony that she continues to experience significant emotional distress from the miscarriage even today,” she added.
The finding is also being applauded by other Toronto women who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy.
Caroline Starr, the mother of a young son, lost a previous pregnancy at eight weeks.
“I had a very long drawn out miscarriage… from when we started to think something went wrong until it was finally over it was a good six weeks, it was a while,” she said.
“It would have been really nice to be able to kind of say, can I file the disability claim at work for short-term disability … [it] would have been really helpful.”
Another Toronto mother, Kayleigh Rosien, who suffered two miscarriages, welcomed the news of the ruling and hoped it could pave the way for other women in the future to file for short-term disability following the loss of a pregnancy.
“It was just so hard,” she said.
“You try to go about your day-to-day life but every now and then things start to pop back up and you hit certain milestones throughout it, and you have that memory, and you’re trying to do things that are normal.”
Aruna Ogale, who lost multiple pregnancies and is the executive director of the Toronto chapter of Bereaved Families of Ontario, said this could also break the taboo surrounding the issue.
“This woman was really suffering some complicated grief, but I think what it does more than anything is it opens up the dialogue about miscarriage,” she said.
Mou’s complaint against her former employer will now be allowed to continue through the hearing process.