2003 Convergys

Chronicle-Herald, October 10, 2003. Reproduced without permission

Call centre mistreats gays, says ex-worker

By Barry Dorey / Staff Reporter

A fired call centre worker has filed a human rights complaint gainst Convergys, saying the company discriminated against him because he is gay.

BryanWatson? says he was dismissed from the company's Dartmouth office in July, shortly after he announced his intention to file the complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Watson, who worked at the call centre for two years, said he was given an "A1" rating in a routine performance review three weeks earlier.

The 25-year-old Halifax man claims he was fired after complaining repeatedly about derogatory comments from co-workers after he revealed that he is gay.

Company spokeswoman Laurie Roderick said she was not permitted to discuss personnel issues.

The company, which employs 3,000 Nova Scotians, made news this week when a former employee complained about a survey that included questions about whether workers are gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.

The questionnaire was anonymous and voluntary, and a senior manager of human resources defended it this week as a tool to help the company plan special events throughout the year.

The company marks African Heritage Month, Women's History Month and Gay Pride Week.

Mr. Watson claims the company, which employs 2,500 at its contact centre in Dartmouth, unfairly denied his requests for time off in order to attend the gay pride parade, an event he helped organize.

He claims the company also trivialized his health problems and did not make allowances for those medical issues in performance evaluations.

In its survey, Convergys asked employees about the makeup of their families (with "same-sex couple/children" or "same-sex couple/no children" among the choices), if they belong to a visible minority or have any disabilities, as well as their religious beliefs.

A former employee said a "very large majority" of people did not want to complete the questionnaire for "fear of losing their jobs."

Mr. Watson said employees constantly fear crackdowns from their supervisors.

"Friends that I have that still work there won't talk to me for fear of retribution," he said.

"Your first few months there you're all gung-ho and it takes about five months to break you and then it's very poor morale."

The company said the survey helps ensure that its employee base accurately represents the community at large.

"Halifax has a huge African-Nova Scotian population, we've got a lot of Muslim employees and a lot of gay and lesbian," spokeswoman Trudi MacMillan said this week.

The company also uses the information in selecting community sponsorships or setting up benefits for its employees.

This year, Convergys sponsored the Black Cultural Centre's 20th anniversary and the gay pride parade and set up a Muslim prayer room.

Mr. Watson said the diversity policies are for appearances only, noting the $1,000 donation to the gay pride committee came a week after he was fired.

"They have their definition of diversity and if you differ from it, that's not acceptable," he said.

Mr. Watson is seeking undetermined compensation from the company, diversity training for supervisors and a letter of apology.