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Migrant worker awarded $23,500 after racial taunts

(Canadian OH&S News) 


(Canadian OH&S News) 

An employer in Kingsville, Ontario has been ordered to pay $23,500 to a migrant worker after a human rights tribunal found that he was fired as a reprisal for making a complaint about racial taunts in the workplace.

In his July 23 decision, David Muir, vice-chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, ordered Double Diamond Acres Limited to pay Adrian Monrose $5,500 in wages plus pre-judgement interest and $18,000 in damages arising from violations under the Human Rights Code.

The employer was also given four months to develop a comprehensive human rights and anti-discrimination policy, including a complaints mechanism, and post it in the workplace as well as to complete an online human rights training program.

The case focuses on Monrose, who was to be employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program by the employer from January 9 until September 1, 2009, or until the completion of his work. Muir noted in the decision that Monrose had been employed by Double Diamond Acres for the 2008 agricultural season, was a good worker and was identified by name as someone whom the employer wanted back for the following season.

But by June 2009, he was terminated from his employment at the company’s greenhouse and repatriated to his home country of Saint Lucia.

In his complaint, Monrose said that he was terminated after he complained to Benji Mastronardi, a company owner, about two occasions on which he and his co-workers were referred to as monkeys by Mastronardi himself and supervisor Jeffrey Carreiro. The employer contended that Monrose was dismissed because he was prone to violence, including one instance in which he pushed Carreiro “with force sufficient to almost knock him over,” the decision said.

“I find that a factor in the decision to terminate the applicant’s employment was that he complained about the monkey comment, which I find was made to him by the respondent Carreiro,” Muir wrote. “I also find that Mastronardi did refer to the applicant and co-workers as monkeys on May 20. I also find that the conclusion that the applicant was prone to violence was baseless and that his termination was more likely in response to his having raised concerns about being referred to as a monkey on May 20 and 21.”

On May 20, 2009, the decision said, Mastronardi came into the greenhouse and became upset about too many tomatoes being wasted, shouting “You’re like monkeys on a branch.” The following day, the employer argued Monrose created a scene by complaining that the employer had still not paid some wages from the 2008 season, an issue that Muir said was fully resolved by February 2009.

“Mastronardi’s testimony on these points cannot be accepted as all of the surrounding circumstances clearly indicated that this issue had been resolved months earlier,” Muir wrote, adding that Carreiro’s evidence also could not be accepted in any respect on the material points of dispute. “In the end, I am left with very little reliable evidence from the respondents on several of the key issues.”

In contrast, Muir found that Monrose’s evidence was largely consistent and the worker readily admitted to facts that were not helpful to his case.

“I generally have accepted the evidence of the applicant over that of Carreiro in particular and, for the most part, the evidence of Mastronardi,” the decision said. “In all of the circumstances, the only reasonable conclusion to come to is that the applicant’s termination from employment and consequent repatriation was the respondents’ direct and only response to his human rights complaint about the monkey comment.”