Women's mouse complaint dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by female staff at a Yaletown law firm who claimed their property manager told them only offices full of women have issues with mice.

Female employees of Yaletown law firm claimed property manager didn't take mice complaints seriously

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint has dismissed a complaint by female employees of a law firm who claimed their objection to mice wasn't taken seriously because of their sex. (Team Flyers/Wildlife In Ontario)

As the female staff of Donaldson Law described it, they were working in rodent hell — in the heart of Yaletown.

The sandblasted brick walls of their office hosted traps where workers witnessed the final moments of maimed mice; employees had to leave work when the squealing got too bad.

On one occasion, a property manager allegedly smirked as he swung a bag of dead rodents from his hand. On another, an employee claimed he told her only offices with a majority of women had such issues.

At the culmination of the battle, Nimisha Hudda filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case on behalf of female employees at Donaldson Law's old Homer Street location — the firm has since moved,

She claimed the comments and behaviour of the property manager, the building owners and the property management company amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex.

But in a recent decision, tribunal member Norman Trerise dismissed the complaint as having no reasonable prospect for success.

The property manager denied all the allegations, including allegedly saying "only offices with a majority of women have issues with mice."

Even if he had said it, Trerise said, it wouldn't necessarily meet the tribunal's bar.

"The alleged comment to Ms. Hudda is offensive," he wrote. "On the scale of offensive behaviour, however, it is clearly at the lower end."

'Unimpressed with the wildlife'

The complaint appears to be the first time longstanding stereotypes about female reactions to mice have made it to the rights tribunal.

Yaletown's proximity to water, multitude of restaurants and old converted warehouses make it a magnet for both rodents and trendy urban professionals.

Rats and mice are an ongoing problem in Yaletown, an area with old buildings, lots of restaurants and proximity to water. (Robert Mecea/The Associated Press)

Trerise's decision details the "obvious hostility" which existed in the spring of 2014 between the property management company and employees of the law firm of Ian Donaldson, one of Vancouver's best known defence lawyers.

The record includes one email from Donaldson: "Would somebody please come up to collect the recent rats? Thank you. My staff remains unimpressed with the wildlife."

Hudda claimed the property manager's alleged comments about women and mice illuminated a larger pattern which saw the firm given short shrift on pest control.

In their response, the property management company provided affidavits from four female tenants in the same building who claimed the property manager took good care of their rodent problems.

In his analysis, Trerise said there was no proof Donaldson Law was treated differently from any other office in the upper floors of the building.

"There is no evidence that the occupants of the other suites were either female or male predominantly," Trerise wrote.

"There is simply no basis for concluding that the efforts of the respondents to eradicate the mice infestation were in any way inadequate or sub-par, other than that they were not successful."

Trerise concluded his decision by saying the single alleged comment about women and mice would not be enough on its own to substantiate a claim of discrimination.

And that wouldn't be affected by "isolated and vague incidences such as swinging a bag of dead mice (whatever that means in context), smirking and failing to change the method of mouse trapping".

The complainants could not be reached for comment. 


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