Metro Morning

Woman who's been through 5 miscarriages hopes disability decision will end workplace stigma

Aruna Ogale hopes a recent legal decision will give women who experience miscarriages the courage to talk about it with their employers and take time off work—​something she never did after her five miscarriages.

Interim decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says one woman’s miscarriage is a disability

An interim ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, that says a miscarriage can be considered a disability, may lead to more people talking openly about the pregnancy loss, according to an advocate for bereaved families. (Getty Images)

Aruna Ogale hopes a recent legal decision will push women who experience miscarriages to talk about it with their employers and take time off work—​something she says she never had the courage to do after her five miscarriages.

"I think people will start talking about it. I think it will become de-mystified. I think women will now get more support," Ogale said in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

An interim decision by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says that one woman's miscarriage should be treated as a disability. The decision could signal a significant shift in the province's disability law.

Ogale, the Executive Director of Bereaved Families of Toronto, says her miscarriages happened more than 20 years ago, but she still remembers them, and what it felt like to go straight back to work.

"I remember going to the workplace and nobody knowing that this had actually happened to me," Ogale said. 

After one miscarriage, Ogale says there was an event at her office she couldn't miss. She reluctantly went into work, while a coworker called in sick with a headache. 

"And I still remember thinking, 'She has a migraine, she gets to stay home. I lost my baby and here I am acting like nothing happened,'"​ Ogale said.

Last month's decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario focuses is centred on the employment discrimination case of of Winnie Mou of Markham.

Mou experienced a series of events in 2013, including a miscarriage and the death of her mother-in-law, which triggered severe and debilitating depression. In February 2014, she was fired from her job.

In the March 14 decision from tribunal adjudicator Jennifer Scott, Mou's miscarriage was ruled a disability.

"I acknowledge that a miscarriage may be covered under the ground of sex or as an intersection of sex and disability. It also is not a common ailment, and it is certainly not transitory. It is clear from the applicant's testimony that she continues to experience significant emotional distress from the miscarriage even today," Scott wrote.

Mou's complaint against her former employer will be allowed to continue through the hearing process, Scott said.

Her employer had filed a dismissal request, arguing she had not established a disability.

Ogale says miscarriages can be devastating and women should be able to take the time they need to recover emotionally and physically. Whether or not more woman choose to do so in the wake of this decision, she says, will be up to them.

"I think that it will be a personal decision, " Ogale said. "I think women will take some time off, but I don't think that women will take off the long amount of time employers are probably envisioning."

With files from Metro Morning