The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has slapped a law firm that sought to hire only Wiccans as litigators with a $100,000 fine.
In the recent case of Good v. Coven LLP [2014 HRTO 2011 (CanLII)], former job applicant Vera Good claimed she was overlooked as a potential hire for the Udora, Ont.-based firm due to her not being a Wiccan — a member of a religious sect that traces its roots to pre-Christian paganism.
Good alleged discrimination in employment against Coven LLP, a five-member all-witch firm, her when the application process on its website requested her to proclaim her “religious affiliation” from a pull-down menu that only listed two choices: “pagan” and “non-pagan.”
In handing out its judgment, the tribunal noted the religious requirement contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code and Coven was guilty of denying Good access to lawful employment on the grounds of her religious beliefs.
“It has been accepted by this Tribunal as an aspect of ‘freedom of religion’ in cases in which adverse differentiation or adverse effect in employment has been associated with race, background or religious belief,” wrote Adjudicator Cotton Mather.
The code states all businesses in the province must respect the “inherent dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination.”
Coven was ordered to pay $80,000 to compensate for Good’s potential loss of income, as well as an additional $20,000 to cover violations of the inherent right to be free from discrimination, and for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.
Coven immediately stated its plans to appeal the decision and firm co-founder and high priestess Elvira Lestrange tells Legal Feeds she would take the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, if necessary.
“This ruling is puritanical and wrongheaded. We are the ones being persecuted; it’s like we’re back in the 17th century,” says Lestrange, who started Coven after a 10-year stint at reputed Toronto-based litigation boutique Bibbity Bobbity & Boo LLP. “Wiccan is so hush-hush, people hear the word witch and they freak out.”