The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal dealt with a human rights
complaint filed by an employee who alleged that he had been the
victim of racial discrimination and that he had been terminated
from his employment due to racial discrimination and retaliation
for raising a human rights issue (Morgan v. Herman Miller
Canada Inc., 2013 HRTO 650).
Mr. Morgan was employed as an installation scheduler by a
relatively small company in the furniture design and installation
business. Mr. Morgan was the only black man employed by the
company, although there were black women employed by the
Whenever Mr. Morgan was asked to perform what he regarded as
"menial" work, he concluded that he had been given those
assignments because he was black. When customers raised issues with
respect to quality of work, Mr. Morgan concluded that the criticism
by customers was racially motivated.
As a result of his belief that he was the subject of racial
discrimination, Mr. Morgan became increasingly unhappy in the
workplace. At one point, he talked to the Director of Sales. He
told her that he was "very unhappy here", "has
gotten advice from a lawyer", "is documenting
issues", "is disrespected", and is "treated
like a black slave". He also told the Director of Sales that
management doesn't care and criticized work team leaders and
company executives. He said that "executives don't speak
to him" and that "he is ignored".
The Director of Sales reported this conversation to the Human
Resources Manager. Shortly after that, Mr. Morgan was terminated
for spreading "deliberate untruths in the workplace". He
was also informed that the termination was due to the fact that he
had "openly expressed...lack of confidence in Herman
Miller's work team leaders and executives."
After he was terminated, Mr. Morgan filed a human rights
complaint, believing he had been discriminated against on the basis
of race. As a result of the evidence at the hearing, the Tribunal
concluded that Mr. Morgan had not, in fact, been discriminated
against on the basis of race.
Unfortunately for the employer, the fact that it had not
discriminated against Mr. Morgan did not protect it from
significant liabilities. The tribunal concluded that when Mr.
Morgan told the Director of Sales that he was being treated as a
"black slave", the company should have concluded that he
was raising an issue of alleged discrimination under the Human
Rights Code. The tribunal concluded that the company should
have investigated the allegation made by Mr. Morgan in order to
determine whether there had been discriminatory conduct. In
addition, the tribunal found that because the company decided to
terminate Mr. Morgan without conducting an investigation, it had
terminated him in part because he had raised a human rights issue.
In the view of the tribunal, his termination was therefore
retaliation for having raised a human rights issue in the
The employer didn't think that Mr. Morgan had raised a human
rights issue and it didn't think that it had terminated Mr.
Morgan because he had raised a human rights issue. Despite this,
the tribunal said that the employer should have recognized that Mr.
Morgan was trying to raise a human rights issue when he said that
he was being treated as a "black slave."
As a remedy, Mr. Morgan was awarded lost wages for 14 months in
the amount of $55,799.70 plus interest. In addition, he was awarded
$15,000 as damages for injury to dignity. Finally, the employer was
ordered to retain a human rights expert to assist it in a review
and revision of its human rights policies and to train all of its
managers in Ontario with respect to the revised human rights
This decision, once again, illustrates the importance of having
a proper policy to deal with allegations of human rights violations
in the workplace and the importance of following that policy when a
human rights issue is raised.
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Labour and employment law had some interesting developments in 2016. What follows are a few highlights from the last year and an introduction to an issue that may attract significant attention in 2017.
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