Racist Remarks Cost Trucking Boss $31,750

Canadian tribunal rules termination influenced by race, not family status

By Canadian HR Reporter Feb 23, 2010
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When Cheryl Khan's boss first made racist comments, calling her a “Paki” and saying people of South Asian origin were “stupid” and “ignorant,” she tried to laugh it off, unable to believe anyone could talk like that.

When she eventually told the owner of the Toronto trucking company he couldn't talk to her that way, he replied it was his “[expletive] company,” Khan told the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

The tribunal found that Lynn Tompkins, owner of Lynx Trucking, discriminated against Khan on the basis of her race and ordered Tompkins to pay Khan $31,750 and institute an anti-harassment policy and undergo training himself.

Khan had worked in the trucking industry for 11 years, most of them as a dispatcher. She was hired as a dispatcher at Lynx Trucking in September 2007 and told the tribunal Tompkins repeatedly made offensive and demeaning racial comments to her during the five months she was in his employ.

The comments were often made at times when Tompkins had lost his temper and was yelling and swearing at her about her work performance, said Khan. He constantly called her stupid, ignorant or uneducated, she said. He would routinely call her “Paki” or “that Indian.”

He made similar comments about other people of South Asian origin, calling them stupid or ignorant and saying no one would hire them, she said. She added that he described her two children, whose father is black, by using a racial epithet.

Khan was fired on Jan. 30, 2008, after taking two days off while her youngest son was in a hospital.

Tompkins told the tribunal he was a tough manager who often yelled at his employees but he denied ever having made racial comments. He said he had decided to fire Khan the Friday before she took time off because of her poor work habits, such as using Facebook on company time and showing up late for work.

During the hearing, former and current employees testified. The former employees said the work environment was poisonous and minority workers were repeatedly told they were lazy. One former employee said Tompkins used the "n word” every day.

The current employees, including Tompkins’ wife, testified Tompkins was a tough boss who might have yelled but he never made racist comments.

In his decision, adjudicator Eric Whist wrote that the testimony of Khan and her witnesses was “clear and unproblematic” while the testimony of Tompkins and his witnesses was “inconsistent, troublesome and ultimately less persuasive.”

Whist found that Tompkins had discriminated against Khan on the basis of her race, during her employment and her termination. However, he didn't find that her termination was related to her family status (when she took time off to care for her son). He ordered Tompkins to pay Khan $25,000 for discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code and another $6,750 in lost wages for firing her.

© 2010 Canadian HR Reporter/Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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