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Tanya Tervit, former college teacher fired after stroke is awarded damages

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



A college English teacher in Vancouver who was let go after she experienced stroke-symptoms at work has won her dispute in the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Tanya Tervit was awarded a total of $8,169 in a recent decision. On May 31, 2012, Tervit took herself to hospital after feeling “numbness and tingling” to one side of her body during the commute to work at the Canadian College of English Language.

Within days, according to the decision, her conditioned worsened and she was unable to walk up stairs or even type on the computer. Tervit, who worked as a week-by-week contract employee, was put on medical leave for three months.

But when she returned — on condition that she doesn’t take the stairs, among other requirements — she was told there was no room for her. The college said it “need(s) a teacher who is totally functional and able to perform all duties.”

When pressed, college chairman Jim Clark reminded Tervit that her position is “not a tenured” one and the only way she would return is if she was “100% able” to stand for six hours daily and type on a keyboard, according to the decision.

“And with only one elevator from the street I cannot guarantee you won’t ever have to use the stairs,” he said.

In testimony, Clark said he was not renewing contracts for other temporary teachers since the college had declining enrolment.

“Apart from his testimony that laying off teachers was the most cost-effective means of dealing with the drop … Mr. Clark did not provide any credible explanation for why employing Ms. Tervit as a substitute teacher in August constituted undue hardship,” tribunal member Diana Juricevic concluded.

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