Vancouver mice infestation leads to human rights sexism complaint

The cacophony of the dying mice was so loud that the employees had to leave the office and sometimes stopped working.
The cacophony of the dying mice was so loud that the employees had to leave the office and sometimes stopped working. (Photo: iStock)

This story may seem like it is an April Fool’s Day joke but we assure you it’s not.

In a recent case that could be entitled “would you like mice with that”, a building in Vancouver’s Yaletown area had a large mouse infestation problem in 2013 and part of the effort to get rid of them caused dying mice, caught in traps on the walls, to squeal loudly while in the vicinity of employees of a law office.

The cacophony of the dying mice was so loud apparently, that the employees had to leave the office and sometimes stopped working, because the squealing was too disrupting.

One fed up female employee filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of other female employees, alleging that the property manager discriminated against them because he wasn’t making enough of an effort to get rid of the rodents, and due to the sexist attitude towards the female employees and their reaction to the mice infestation.

The employee alleged that there was an incident in which the property manager swung a bag of dead mice around while speaking to the employees.

On another occasion he was alleged to have told the employee: “Seems only offices with a majority of women have issues with the mice. Offices with mostly men find it funny…they call them wall spiders and don’t really care about the mice…Yeah, it seems offices with women have more of an issue with it.”

The tribunal noted that property management did try to get rid of the infestation problem, just not with the urgency the law office expected. Management hired various pest control companies but they weren’t effective in getting rid of the problem.

While the tribunal found the alleged comments and behaviour of the property manager offensive, they were isolated incidents and not offensive enough to be discrimination nor was there proof that he or the management company didn’t take the mice infestation seriously.

Accordingly, the tribunal dismissed the complaint.

While nobody should be subjected to such comments or behaviour, you have to wonder why it was even brought to the tribunal. A rodent infestation is not really a good reason to bring a complaint.

Apparently the law office has now vacated the building and you know what they say: when the cat’s away the mice will play.

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