Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
In a recent British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal decision, a former correctional officer for the BC government was awarded close to $1 million dollars for discrimination based on race and colour and retaliation.
Employee Files Complaint for Discrimination and Retaliation
The employee had worked as a corrections officer since 2000. He had transferred to a new centre in 2006 and was placed in a new position in 2012.
Following the placement in the new position, he was subjected to racial comments and slurs by co-workers and supervisors, including being called a “lazy Black man” and other derogatory epithets. After he filed a human rights complaint in 2012, he also faced retaliation by supervisors. In 2013, he left his employment. As a result of his experience, he suffered from a mental illness and was unable to work in any capacity. In total, his complaint contained 32 allegations which had occurred over the course of 18 months.
Due to various delays, a first decision was issued in 2019 by the Tribunal. In that decision, which focussed on the employer’s liability, the Tribunal found the employer liable for discrimination and retaliation contrary to ss. 13 and 43 of the British Columbia Human Rights Code;taken together, the Tribunal ruled that they amounted to a poisoned work environment.
At the second hearing on the matter, the Tribunal had to determine the appropriate remedy to be awarded to the employee.
The employee sought $1,200,000 for damages in lost wages, expenses and disbursements, costs, and injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.
The employer did not dispute the employee’s rights to damages, but argued that a remedy under $400,000 dollars would be fair and appropriate.
Tribunal Awards Employee Close to $1 Million in Damages
Having already found the employer liable in the previous decision, the Tribunal set out to determine the extent of the employee’s losses and whether the employer’s conduct had caused or contributed to them.
In its 2021 decision on the matter, the Tribunal found that the employee had experienced losses as a result of the discrimination in most areas of his life, including his physical and mental health, his family and social life and on a financial level. It further found that the discrimination had directly caused his mental illness and his inability to work.
In assessing the damages for injury to dignity, the Tribunal stated:
“The nature of the discrimination was serious. […] This is not a case where the connection to [the employee’s] race and colour was subtle. The comments and actions of his coworkers and supervisors struck at the core of [the employee’s] identity and feelings of self-worth and emotional well-being. What [the employee] experienced encompasses virtually the entire spectrum of racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace, escalated into retaliatory behaviour, and resulted in a poisoned work environment, necessitating a significant award of compensation.”
On that basis, the Tribunal therefore awarded the employee $176,000 in damages for injury to dignity.
The Tribunal also awarded the employee $264,060 for past loss of earnings, $431,601 for future loss of earnings, $65,881 for pension loss, $1,140 for expenses and $25,515 as compensation for disbursements.
All totalled, the Tribunal awarded the employee almost $1 million in compensation.
If you feel that your rights have been violated, seeking the advice of an experienced and informed employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and your options to remedy the situation.
I have extensive experience and knowledge in handling cases on behalf of employees in a variety of industries. If you have been the victim of harassment and discrimination, I can help you evaluate your options and pursue the resolution that can best serve your interests and compensate for the pain and damages you have suffered.
At Peter A. McSherry Law Office in Guelph, I have represented clients in all areas of employment since being called to the Ontario Bar in 1997. When you work with me, you will meet and discuss your case only with me. I provide each of my clients with compassionate care, attentive service and the efficient resolution of legal issues. Contact me today to schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 519-821-5465 or by e-mailing me. Harassment and discrimination cases are not to be taken lightly. Your rights deserve protection, and you deserve to work in a non-hostile work environment.