A Surrey man who is deaf has lodged a human rights complaint against a law firm, claiming it discriminated against him on the basis of his physical disability.
Darrell Siebring claims that when he made an appointment to meet with one of Taylor Law Group’s lawyers for legal advice, the firm refused to provide him with a sign language interpreter for the meeting.
Siebring had lodged a similar complaint against his strata in March 2018, but lost. In that case, he accused the strata of discriminating against him on the grounds of physical disability for refusing to pay for an additional sign language interpreter at its annual general meetings.
Siebring filed both complaints with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.
In the strata case, tribunal member Kathleen Smith decided in November 2018 Siebring’s complaint had “no reasonable prospect of success” because he didn’t provide evidence of any adverse impact he allegedly experienced.
“Because Mr. Siebring has not articulated any allegations of adverse impact, I find that he has no reasonable prospect of establishing that he suffered an adverse impact as a result of the strata’s refusal to pay for two interpreters at the AGM,” she concluded. “If Mr. Siebring has no reasonable prospect of establishing this element of his case, it follows that he has no reasonable prospect of succeeding with his complaint.”
In Siebring’s latest complaint, tribunal member Norman Trerise dismissed Taylor Law Group’s application to have it dismissed.
“I am not persuaded that Mr. Siebring has no reasonable prospect of establishing that he was discriminated against on the facts alleged,” Trerise decided.
Trerise noted in his Oct. 22 reasons for decision that when Siebring phoned Taylor Law Group he asked an articled student if TLG would provide him with professional translation service and the student replied that no interpretation services were available at the firm, but he could bring a professional translator, family member or friend to translate for him.
Siebring accused TLG of violating the Human Rights Code for not accommodating his need for a sign language interpreter. In response, the firm maintains it had a bona fide reason for not scheduling an appointment with Siebring because he refused to accept its rates and there is no basis for it to pay for services for an individual who had not retained the firm’s services.
Siebring’s response to this is fees were not at issue in his complaint, but rather TLG’s not providing him with an interpreter, and paying for that service, for a first or subsequent meeting with any lawyer he retained. He also referred to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Trerise noted, “which he says clearly requires that a person who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.”
To this, Taylor Law Group responded that the Human Rights Code doesn’t require a law firm to provide free sign language interpretation at the expense of the firm.