Human Rights Tribunal: Queen’s University’s Handling of Philosopher’s Case “Egregious”

A dispute that began in 2008 with Adèle Mercier, associate professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, along with two other colleagues, filing complaints of gender discrimination in her department on behalf of students, and that came to be about the way the university treated Mercier in response (previously), has just been partially resolved, with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordering the university to pay Mercier $20,000 in general damages and $5,000 in punitive damages.

The Queen’s University Journal reports that a climate review at the time “determined there was an issue of gendered discrimination in the philosophy department,” but that, according to Mercier, “the recommendations given to the department to address the problem were only followed for a short period of time afterwards.”

She decided to bring the discrimination complaints to the Human Rights Tribunal, but that’s when her labour grievances started piling up. Shortly before Mercier filed her discrimination application at the Tribunal, she sent the documented complaints to the various respondents in her department, which Mercier said kickstarted an “academic mobbing.”

She was was accused of harassing the department’s secretaries, and disciplined for complaining to university administrators about a departmental meeting, deprived of her office in the Department of Philosophy and given a different office in a different building.

The relocation resulted in an arbitration that spanned six years under the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal between Mercier and the University for its treatment of the long-time professor. In his decision, Kevin Burkett, the case’s arbitrator, called the University’s handling of the case “egregious.” 

The dispute is not over, though. The Journal reports:

According to Mercier, the Human Rights Tribunal wouldn’t pursue her original discrimination filing from 2008 while there were ongoing labour grievances between her and the University. Now that the labour grievances have been settled, however, Mercier said she will return to her original complaint.

Details here.

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