Restaurant created toxic environment for Muslim employees

TORONTO, Dec. 18, 2013 /CNW/ - Abdul Malik, Mohammed Islam and Arif Hossain were variously reprimanded for speaking Bengali, forced to break their religious tenets and then lost their jobs at a Toronto restaurant after asserting their right to be free from discrimination.

Vice Chair Judith Keene of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found the employees had been subjected to remarks about "cleaning Bengali sh-t from the kitchen" and threats that they would be replaced with white workers.  Vice Chair Keene's decision found that the disturbing series of incidents clearly met the legal test of harassment under Ontario's Human Rights Code and that all of the men "suffered discrimination during their employment in the workplace on the basis of creed, colour, ancestry, place of origin and ethnic origin."

All three men practice the Muslim faith and were expected to "taste food containing pork or to break the Ramadan fast" while working as kitchen staff in Toronto's Le Papillon on the Park restaurant.

Although Mr. Malik had worked for the owners of the restaurant for over ten years, the move to an open kitchen - where the kitchen workers could be seen - seemed to be a spark for a series of disturbing incidents.

"This was the hardest thing I have had to face since becoming Canadian," said Abdul Malik. "I hope I can put this nightmare behind me and focus on my family."

In her 80-page written decision, Keene also found the restaurant owners had retaliated against the three men after they questioned how they were treated, resulting in the loss of their employment "in part because of the applicants' complaints of discrimination."

Vice Chair Keene ordered the owners of Le Papillon on the Park to pay lost wages and general damages to all three men for the violations of their human rights. In addition, the owners were ordered to take human rights training and to adopt and post a policy setting out their responsibilities under Ontario's Human Rights Code.

Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, noted that "The NCCA applauds the Tribunal's decision, affirming that Muslim employees should not be forced to choose between their religion and their jobs."

Kate Sellar, the lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, who represented Mr. Malik and his colleagues said, "The toxic environment took a toll on the health of all three men.  They came forward to assert their rights while in crisis, and that is a very brave thing to do."

SOURCE Human Rights Legal Support Centre

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or to arrange interviews:

Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958, mobile 416-522-5931