Woman says she was denied job at southwestern Manitoba grocery store because of pregnancy

Emily Manuliak, who is three months pregnant, is filing a human rights complaint after she says she interviewed for a cashier position at the Killarney Boundary Co-op and was told to reapply after her baby is born.

Emily Manuliak is filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission after being a denied Co-op job

A woman stands looking off into the distance.
Emily Manuliak says she was denied a job at the Boundary Co-op grocery store in Killarney, Man., after revealing she was three months pregnant. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

A woman from southwestern Manitoba is filing a human rights complaint, saying she believes she was denied a job because she is three months pregnant.

Emily Manuliak, 24, recently interviewed for a part-time cashier position at the Boundary Co-op grocery store in the southwestern Manitoba community of Killarney. Her hopes were high after the interview, when she was asked for references and maternity leave plans in an email from the Co-op's human resources department, she said.

But that changed when she got a phone call saying Co-op wouldn't be hiring her, Manuliak said.

"The HR person that I'd had an interview with said … 'We just think it's best that you apply after the baby's been born, just because we think it'll be quite difficult to hire you, train you and then have to train yet another person when you go on maternity leave,'" Manuliak said.

"They didn't mention any other reason … just pretty much that they're not going to follow through with the employment right now."

The decision left her disappointed, she said.

"There's not a lot of job opportunities out here.… I'm shocked that at this point people aren't treating people the way they should be."

WATCH | Southwestern Manitoba woman says she was denied job because of pregnancy:

Manitoba woman files human rights complaint after being rejected for job because she's pregnant

14 days ago
Duration 0:29
Emily Manuliak is filing a human rights complaint for sex discrimination after she says she was rejected for a cashier job at a Killarney, Man., grocery store because she's pregnant.

Manitoba's Human Rights Code, which protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace, specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of "sex-determined characteristics or circumstances, such as pregnancy, the possibility of pregnancy, or circumstances related to pregnancy."

Manuliak sent a followup email to the Co-op HR administrator, pointing to that part of the human rights code.

"I wasn't scared about letting them know [about the pregnancy] … during the interview, because I knew that you can't discriminate against things like that," she said. 

"I guess maybe they didn't, or maybe they did know and they just don't really care about that."

Manuliak says on Wednesday — the day CBC reached out to the businesses about the decision — a senior Co-op HR official called her to organize a meeting, offering her a job and compensation to "rectify the situation."

She declined and is continuing forward with her human rights complaint.

"I didn't think … [pregnancy] should affect a part-time cashier job," she said.

In an email to CBC sent Saturday, Boundary Co-op general manager Ryan Polnik said the store is aware of the incident.

"Our management team has contacted the applicant and addressed the issue directly with them," Polnik said. 

"Boundary Co-op is committed to maintaining a diverse and respectful workplace and will take steps to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again."

Sex-based discrimination 'deeply entrenched'

Sex-based discrimination — which includes discrimination due to pregnancy — is the second-most common ground of discrimination the Manitoba Human Rights Commission sees, said Delaney Coelho, the commission's director of intake and mediation.

That "really speaks to how deeply entrenched some … forms of sex-based discrimination" still are in Manitoba, she said.

In 2022, the commission saw 221 complaints of discrimination, 30 of which were based on sex, said Coelho.

It's important for employers to understand what their obligations are under the code, she said, including knowing what "reasonable accommodation" might look like and making sure policies are in place that prevent discrimination.

A woman with blond hair and glasses stares at the camera.
Manuliak says she has filed a human rights complaint against the Co-Op. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

For people who contact the commission about filing a complaint, the first step is working with an intake officer, which can lead to voluntary mediation for both parties or to adjudication, Coelho said.

The aim is to remedy the harm caused by discrimination through "a remedial process, not a punitive process," she said, with a focus on "learning and giving parties the opportunity to find a resolution."

If that's not successful, the complaint will go to investigation. Once that report is concluded, it's shared with both parties and can move to adjudication if there is enough evidence. At that point, a complaint becomes public.

Complaints can take anywhere from a few months to years to conclude, said Coelho.

Manuliak said her experience makes her not want to tell potential employers she is pregnant, but she hopes that making her human rights complaint and sharing her story will help keep something similar from happening to anyone else.

"I hope going forward … the people in charge there are just a little more aware of the situation and maybe have some training" on human rights, Manuliak said.

"It's a huge issue, and I think all the women here should be supportive of that, at least."


Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with