Explore Our Blog

Back to blog home
December 14, 2021

Precedent Setting Victory for Gender Identity Rights in B.C.

In September 2021, a case decision in the province of British Columbia made a significant development with respect to the rights of trans and non-binary people at work. The judgement will have implications for the law across Canada, including here in Ontario.  

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found a restaurant and some of its employees in violation of s. 13 of the B.C. Human Rights Code by refusing to use another employee’s correct pronouns.  Section 13 specifically bars discrimination based on gender identity or expression among other protected statuses. 

The case revolves around non-binary restaurant worker, Jessie Nelson, who was repeatedly intentionally misgendered and called by gendered nicknames in the workplace. Nelson spoke up to management at the restaurant, Buono Osteria, but was told to wait on their concerns. They had informed the restaurant upon hiring that they used they/them pronouns but the bar manager, Brian Gobelle, repeatedly ignored their requests and used she/her pronouns along with nicknames like ‘sweetheart’ to refer to them. 

Eventually, a tense discussion between Nelson and Gobelle resulted in Nelson being fired. The restaurant told Nelson that they were fired due to insubordination and being too ‘militant’ in regards to their gender identity.  

The Tribunal found in favour of Nelson’s human rights complaint and that “Mr. Gobelle discriminated against Jessie Nelson in their employment. His use of female pronouns and gendered nicknames demeaned them and undermined their dignity at work… this was connected directly to Jessie Nelson’s gender identity and expression, and constitutes a violation of the Code.” The Tribunal further noted in their decision that each of Nelson’s shifts at the restaurant “was a fresh opportunity and occasion for stress, pain, suffering, and humiliation.”

Mr. Gobelle, Buono Osteria, its owner and manager were ordered to pay Jessie Nelson a total of $30,000 in compensation for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect. 

Buono Osteria was further ordered to include a statement in its employee policies that affirms every employee’s right to be addressed with their correct pronouns and to implement mandatory training for all staff and managers about human rights in the workplace. 

While this case occurred in B.C., it may set a precedent for the considerations and awards in this type of case.  

Millard & Company specializes in human rights litigation. If you need advice or representation regarding a human rights issue, contact us today to see how we can help.

Wrongful Dismissal

Lost your job?
We can help.

Learn More

Human Rights Complaints

Facing discrimination or harassment?
Contact us.

Learn More

Contingency Fees

Don't have the money to pay up front?
Let's talk.

Learn More


"It was an absolute pleasure to work with Ben Millard at Millard & Company Barristers and Solicitors. Before signing on to use his services he took the time to answer any and all questions we had so that we felt confident when choosing him to help us with our legal matter. Once we signed on, this did not change. He was always very quick to answer our questions or address our concerns. He was very quick to let us know our next moves and did not sit on anything which was well appreciated. Would recommend to anyone to use his services. Kind, courteous, and genuinely great person to deal with!"

- M. C.

"It was a great pleasure, and a great experience, for our not-for-profit organization to work with Marcus McCann to assist us to rewrite our by-laws. Marcus was professional, knowledgeable and understanding of our issues and committed to helping us to frame our new by-laws in the context of both our organization's vision, mission and values and the law as it relates to not-for-profit organizations. He was diligent, completed the work within the time frame we agreed upon, responded to phone calls and emails promptly, and was always courteous to me and my colleagues. I thoroughly recommend Marcus for any organization who needs legal assistance, particularly in developing by-laws."

- J. M.

"Within a day I was connected to Ben Millard and he walked me through the approach and compensation once he understood my circumstances. He negotiated a good deal and it was settled in less than three weeks (would have been faster except for summer holiday). He was always available for questions during the negotiation and will answer questions on any future contracts vis a vis the severance package. With Ben I know I got the best deal i could."

- T. S.

"This is the second occasion for me reaching out to Ben Millard for his employment related expertise. I greatly appreciate Ben’s clear and concise counsel. His ability to distill the relevant and important issues from all the “noise” makes working with him to be efficient and effective. I would not hesitate to recommend him for any employment law matters."

- T. W.