DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE - FIFTEEN WORKERS OF CHINESE ORIGIN TO SHARE $150,000 COMPENSATION

MONTREAL, April 19 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - Following complaints filed with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, the Human Rights Tribunal has just ordered an employment agency and a company located in Ville Saint-Laurent to pay $150,000 for moral and punitive damages to 15 workers of Chinese origin who were victims of discrimination.

Moreover, the employer, Calego International Inc., a company that designs and imports bags, and its owner, Stephen Rapps, must set up a program promoting the integration of immigrant workers in the company, including the workers of Chinese origin, in order to prevent any discrimination based on ethnic or national origin.

In a decision rendered on April 11, 2011, the Human Rights Tribunal stated that the evidence submitted by the Commission during the trial [TRANSLATION] "is sufficient to establish that the approach used by Calego revealed a clear lack of respect and sensitivity towards the Chinese workers, to the point of creating an unhealthy working environment marked by prejudice and stereotypes […]."

The matter dates back to July 11, 2006. On that date, only workers of Chinese origin had been summoned to a meeting in the company warehouse to hear the owner's criticisms. Mr. Rapps said through an interpreter: "This is Canada, not China. We take showers and shampoo every day, wash hands with soap, flush the toilet after use. Don't piss on the floor…This is my kitchen, not yours. My kitchen, I want it clean. You Chinese eat like pigs."

According to the evidence heard at the trial, the kitchen in the warehouse was too small for the number of employees and was not maintained; as a result, garbage piled up. The bathrooms were also unsanitary but the sign saying to keep the bathroom clean was written in Chinese only, while the company employed workers of several other origins. Following the meeting, several workers left the premises in chaos, shocked by the owner's comments.

The next day, some of them returned to the Calego parking lot to demand an apology, better maintenance of the kitchen and bathrooms, better working conditions, and compensation for the offensive and discriminatory comments. The 15 workers, some of who had been paid as little as $5 an hour in cash, resigned. They had been living in Canada for periods ranging between three months and three years. They had been hired as temporary workers by Agence Vincent and its owner, Vincent Agostino, who partially provided supervision of their work.

The judge noted that Calego International Inc. and its owner had attempted, during the trial, to minimize the nature of the discriminatory comments by saying that the expression "to eat like pigs" was "neutral". However the Tribunal found [TRANSLATION] "the terms he (the owner) used, his reference to Canadian standards - implying a comparison to other standards - his infantilizing comments about personal hygiene addressed to Chinese workers in an arrogant and condescending tone that showed little respect, represent hurtful, degrading and humiliating comments related to the national origin of these Chinese workers[…]."

Following this incident, the workers filed a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse which investigated the matter and recommended remedies. They were also represented by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

The president of the Commission, Gaétan Cousineau, welcomed the Tribunal's decision. "This ruling serves as reminder that employers must abide by the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which guarantees the right to equality and to be treated with dignity," he said.

He also noted that during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Commission received 350 complaints of discrimination in the workplace and more than a quarter of these were based on race/colour/ethnic or national origin.

Source Julie Lajoye
514-873-5146 or 1-800-361-6477, ext 230
julie.lajoye@cdpdj.qc.ca

SOURCE Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

For further information:

Julie Lajoye
514-873-5146 or 1-800-361-6477, ext 230
julie.lajoye@cdpdj.qc.ca

 

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