The Board of School Trustees of School District No. 81 (the “School Board”) was successful in its appeal of an arbitration award in which the arbitrator found that the benefit plan of the School Board (the “Plan”) was discriminatory under section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the British Columbia Human Rights Code, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 210 in restricting dual coverage where both spouses were teachers. The court found that the Plan was not discriminatory as there was no deprivation of a benefit.

Administrative law – Teachers – Labour law – Arbitration – Benefit plans – Dual coverage – Judicial review – Human rights complaints – Charter of Rights – Discrimination

British Columbia Public School Employers’ Assn. v. British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, [2003] B.C.J. No. 1272, British Columbia Court of Appeal, May 30, 2003, Huddart, Braidwood and Thackray JJ.A.

The Fort Nelson District Teachers’ Association (the “Union”) filed a grievance alleging that the policy of the School Board to restrict dual coverage under the Plan was discriminatory. The arbitrator allowed the grievance of the Union. The primary issue was related to dual or co-ordinated coverage under the Plan. This issue relates to the ability of an individual, through the combination of two benefit plans, to obtain reimbursement for his or her insurance claim up to the combined limit of the two plans. The position of the Union was that the School Board, in refusing to allow co-ordinated coverage for individuals who were both married and teachers, was pursuing a discriminatory policy as these married teachers were unable to obtain a benefit available to teachers who had spouses covered under a different benefits plan. Arguments were advanced both under the Charter and the B.C. Human Rights Code.

The majority of the Court of Appeal found that the whole argument on discrimination failed as there was no deprivation of a benefit. This result was obtained whether the analysis was under the Charter or the Code. The court reviewed the contract between the Union and the School Board and noted that it did not provide for co-ordinated coverage. The court found that the Union bargained for and received a medical package which consisted of the same coverage for all teachers, equally, regardless of marital or family status. The court further noted that if teachers who were married to each other became entitled to co-ordinated benefits, it would allow them greater coverage than other, unmarried teachers, which would, in itself, be unfair. Having decided that no benefit was ever lost under the contract, the court allowed the appeal of the School Board.

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