Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the Public Security Ministry discriminated against a man who was facing a criminal charge, and has awarded him $13,000 for lost wages and other damages.

In 2009, the man was forbidden from working at a construction site at the Percé prison in the Gaspésie region because he was deemed a security risk.

The prison, which is an institution for people who have committed sexual crimes, was closed for renovations at the time.

The man, an employee at a flooring company that was under contract with the Public Security Ministry, was told he couldn't work on the prison site because of a marijuana possession charge against him. The charge was eventually dropped.

Stéphanie Fournier, the lawyer who argued the man's case before the tribunal, argued that it's illegal to refuse someone work because they are facing a criminal charge.

"The tribunal found that there was no rational link, or no connection between simple possession of marijuana charges and the work on a construction site," she said.

Employers can't discriminate broadly

Fournier said that since the prison wasn't even open at the time, there was no reason to believe the man might be involved in smuggling drugs to prisoners.

Even if he had been convicted of the crime, she continued, there would still be no rational link between his criminal behaviour and the perceived security risk.

Fournier said the case establishes that employers have to look at specific circumstances of criminal history, and not just at the fact that someone has a criminal record, in order to justify dismissing a potential employee.

The tribunal ultimately ordered the Public Security Ministry to pay the man the $13,000 for lost wages and to cover for moral damages.