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Concierge at luxury Richmond condo launches age discrimination case against strata

A former employee at Rivergreen, near the Olympic Oval, is alleging she was demoted based on her advancing years
A former employee at Rivergreen, near the Olympic Oval, is alleging she was demoted based on her age

A former employee at a luxury condo tower in Richmond has accused the building’s strata of age discrimination.

Nicola Smith was acting head concierge for two years at the Rivergreen complex overlooking the Olympic Oval when she claims she was repeatedly asked by strata president Michael Tse for her birth date.

According to documents published by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, a few weeks after finally giving in to Tse’s demands, Smith alleges she was asked to take a 35 per cent pay cut and a significant demotion.

Smith claims that - shortly after she indicated in late 2018 that she wouldn’t be accepting the new terms - she was told she would be out of a job, where she had worked for four years.

Replacement concierge was "decades younger"

And in January 2019, when the strata apparently brought in a new permanent head concierge who “appeared to be decades younger,” Smith said she was asked to train that person.

In response to Smith’s claim of a breach of the Human Right’s Code regarding age discrimination, the strata and Tse explained that the strata decided to change property management companies and terminated its contract with FirstService Residential (FSR).

They also claimed that it was really the property management company that employed Smith and not the strata itself, despite her claiming Tse was involved in the meeting where Smith was offered the reduced wages and demotion.

Smith also provided emails to the tribunal, which appear to indicate that the strata, for the most part, was Smith’s employer.

In one email, the tribunal noted that Tse wrote “for all intents and purposes, they are our employees” and another stating that “… I personally will let anyone go if they continue with any negativity.”

"Insubordinate employees could be fired"

While another made reference to Tse saying he “would terminate concierge employees at the Strata if they engaged in insubordination.”

The tribunal member presiding over the case, Pamela Murray, also noted that the strata and Tse had failed to address Smith’s claims that she was indeed employed by the strata or filed any evidence to the contrary.

And Murray added that the respondent (the strata and Tse) “need not be a complainant’s employer to be liable” under the Human Rights Code.

The strata and Tse had applied to have the complaint dismissed, but that application was rejected last week by tribunal member Murray due, in part, to the respondents’ apparent “failure” to address Smith’s allegations or produce relevant evidence to counter her claims.

The case and its allegations are still to be considered by the tribunal at a later date.