A decision from the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has awarded substantial damages against a resort. The sum of $173,000 was assessed against the employer to be paid to seven former employees. The Tribunal found that the company had terminated these past workers to be able to hire Chinese workers in their place.

Human rights protections, of course, extend to all races, although the common layman’s perspective of the statute is one intended to protect minority groups, which is clearly not the case. Just as sexual harassment protections cover all genders, human rights protections in the case of race apply to all ethnic groups.

The Facts

The resort, located in the wilderness of British Columbia, had been acquired in 2015 by Kin Wa Chan. Following the change in ownership, many staff were laid off due to substantial renovations. The owner, however, proceeded to hire Chinese alternative workers as he had believed that he was not required to pay them overtime or statutory holiday pay, a view which was, parenthetically, mistaken.

The Damages

The Tribunal accepted the evidence of the complainant workers and found that each one had been adversely treated due to their race. Each one identified as Caucasian.

Human rights cases allow for monetary claims of lost income, compensation for injured feelings and also reinstatement, or in some cases, financial compensation in lieu of reinstatement.

Awards for lost wages were made to each complainant in the range of $5,000 to $47,000. The employer’s liability may well have exceeded this, had the complainants remained unemployed for longer time periods. Human rights lost income awards are not capped, unlike a wrongful dismissal claim which has an upper end based on “reasonable notice”. In addition, no employee claimed reinstatement which remains a human rights remedy in all jurisdictions.

Awards for emotional suffering were also made to each complainant ranging from $3,000 to $18,000.

Costs awards are not made in most jurisdictions.

Employers’ Take Away

Clearly, action such as the conduct in this case will lead to an adverse ruling. Human rights claims are powerful remedies and the damage awards, as we see here, can be severe.  Legal advice would have avoided this award.

Employees’ View

Individuals who had been treated adversely due to race or any other human rights protected ground must be aware of the remedy available to them under human rights law. This applies particularly with respect to the lost income claim. Also, no medical evidence is required to justify an award for injured feelings.

Get Advice Before You Act

If you have questions about this issue or any employment question, contact the offices of Toronto employment and labour lawyers Mallins Law. We regularly advise employees and employers on legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 647 792 0310 to schedule a consultation.