On December 4, 2013, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
rendered a decision awarding a large sum in damages, continuing the
trend that has been seen in 2013. In Islam v. Big Inc.,2013 HRTO 2009 (CanLII)
three employees approached the Human Rights Tribunal separately in
early 2011 after their employment ended (two men were fired, while
the third quit). Each claimed that the owners of Toronto
restaurant Papillon on the Park, discriminated against them on
racial and religious grounds.
The three applicants are immigrants from Bangladesh, who speak
Bengali, and practice the Muslim faith. The three were
employed as Head Chef, sous chef, and cook. They worked in
the kitchen of the restaurant, which was open and could be seen by
patrons. The Tribunal accepted evidence from the Applicants
that they would sometimes speak Bengali in the kitchen to make sure
orders were properly communicated. At various times, all
three alleged that the owners, mocked them for speaking in their
native Bangali tongue, introduced an "English in the
Kitchen" rule, and threatened to close the restaurant if
necessary, just to replace them with white employees.
Two of the three Applicants complained that they were forced to
taste pork, which is forbidden by their adherence to the Muslim
religion. Further, they also complained that they owners
required them to taste food during Ramadan, when they were fasting,
or face the possible consequence of being fired. One
Applicant stated that when he refused to taste a tortiere because
he was fasting during Ramadan, one of the owners responded by
saying "you guys are crazy", referring to their religious
practices. The Tribunal accepted the Applicants' evidence
and found that the employer did engage in these discriminatory and
The Tribunal further found that the Applicants did make
complaints internally to their employer, but that their complaints
were summarily dismissed without any investigation or serious
consideration, and that the employer engaged in further
discriminatory conduct as a result of the Applicants attempting to
enforce their rights under the Code.
In total, the Tribunal ordered the employer to pay nearly
$28,000 to the three employees for lost wages, plus interest
thereon. The Board also ordered the employer to pay damages
to compensate for the violation of each Applicant's inherent
right to be free from discrimination, for injury to their dignity,
feelings and self-respect, including the continuing stress caused
by failure to investigate the complaints of discrimination.
The amounts of those damages for the three Applicants were $37,000,
$22,000, and $12,000.
The amount of damages ordered in this matter is certainly large,
but it is well within the expected range given that there were
three individual Applicants, and the nature of the discrimination
and harassment was particularly offensive. The lawyers at
CCPartners can help you understand your employees' rights and
your obligations under the Human Rights Code to help keep
your company on the right side of the law.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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