An employee of Presstran Industries in St. Thomas, Ont., has filed a human rights complaint, alleging her employer is discriminating against her because of her diagnosed condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Laurie Bates has been an employee with Presstran for almost 30 years and has worked various positions with the automotive company.
Fifteen years ago, Bates was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition which requires her to go to the restroom up to six times a day, but she said she never found it affected her work. In 2015, though, she said she was assigned to work on the assembly line and her managers began to notice her frequent trips to the washroom.
“I came out of the washroom and a team leader was standing outside the washroom door wondering where I was,” Bates said.
“I found it very odd that I was being scrutinized.”
Bates said she had meetings with her managers and they implemented a system where Bates would have to press a button which would time her washroom breaks and another button that would notify her team leader she was on a break.
She also alleged the company docked her pay for her restroom breaks, on average $40 a week, over a 57-week period.
“Total loss of dignity.”
Bates has been on stress leave since May.
Rahul Soni, an employment and human rights lawyer representing Bates at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, said the company made Bates feel embarrassed about her condition.
“It made her feel hopeless and it made her feel targeted and no employee should have to feel that way based on having a disability,” he said.
Magna International, which owns Presstran Industries, said they are not commenting on the case, pending litigation. But in a response to the complaint Presstran said the company takes “a proactive approach to ensuring that its employees are not harassed or discriminated against on the basis of disability.”
Bates said she wants to return to work and be treated like any other employee.
“I just want to be treated equally as everyone else. I don’t want to be made a spectacle of,” she said.