Ottawa-area company fined after saying it only hires ‘white men’

posted on September 10, 2014

By Maria Babbage, Globe and Mail | Link to Article 

By Maria Babbage, Globe and Mail | Link to Article 

An Ottawa-area company discriminated against a foreign-born job applicant by telling him it “only hires white men” in a series of “abusive” text messages, Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

It ordered Ottawa Valley Cleaning and Restoration to pay $8,000 plus interest to Malek Bouraoui – who was denied employment in June, 2013 – saying it found “multiple violations” of his rights under the Human Rights Code.

“The respondent persistently ridiculed the applicant because of his race, colour and place of origin,” the tribunal said in its decision last week.

“I am satisfied that the applicant was deeply hurt, shocked and humiliated by the respondent’s comments and that he was denied employment based on a number of prohibited grounds.”

After applying for a job, Mr. Bouraoui said he received a call from a man named Jesse, who asked what country he was from and whether he was white or black. Mr. Bouraoui, who is black, testified that he told the man that he was not from Canada, but was too shocked to answer the other question about his race.

A short time later, Mr. Bouraoui said he received a text message from Jesse, telling him to “try learning English you will have better luck I don’t hire foreners [sic] I keep the white man working.”

After Mr. Bouraoui texted back that the comments were discriminatory and he would file a complaint, he said he received another text message from Jesse:

“I didn’t say anything that is racist all I sad [sic] was I don’t hire foreners [sic] and I hire white men so stop texting me take it how ever you want if you text me again it will be hearasment [sic] and there is no law for what I said it’s called freedom of speech in Canada maybe you would know that if you were a Canadian good by [sic] stop wasting my time I run a business I don’t have for you get a life.”

Another text told Mr. Bouraoui “go file a complaint he will probably be a white man and he will probably laugh at you and tell you to go away.”

Ottawa Valley Cleaning and Restoration was not available for comment. A call to the company was answered by the voice mail of a man identifying himself as Jesse Simpson.

Geneviève Debané, who adjudicated the case, said she accepted Mr. Bouraoui’s printout of the text message exchange. He established that the texts and phone call were sent by Jesse, either an employee or agent of the company, which is liable for his actions, she said.

Ms. Debané also accepted Mr. Bouraoui’s testimony to be a truthful recounting of events. The company didn’t file a response or participate in the matter.

However, the tribunal said Mr. Bouraoui alleged that he received a call from Jesse after being notified of the complaint. Jesse allegedly told Mr. Bouraoui that if the complaint was not withdrawn, he would hire a lawyer and seek repayment of legal costs. The tribunal said it didn’t accept that as a threat, but the company communicating its legal position.

Asking Mr. Bouraoui about his race and place of origin is prohibited under the Human Rights Code, the tribunal ruled.

“Though the applicant’s interactions with the respondent were of a very short duration, the contents of the text messages sent to the applicant are not only discriminatory but they are egregious and abusive in nature,” it said in its decision.

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