montreal employer accused of workplace discrimination

It was all over a dirty workplace. In Canada, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered a company to pay fifteen employees $10,000 each in moral and punitive damages, ruling that a boss who yelled a group of immigrant workers -- all from China -- was guilty of discrimination. The case is now being appealed: Montreal employer to appeal decision in human-rights case.

It started in 2006 at Calego International Inc., a bag and knapsack company in Montreal. Executive Stephen Rapps was apparently mad about the state of the facilities' kitchen and bathrooms, and gathered all the Chinese-born workers -- with an interpreter, to be clear -- to lecture them about personal hygiene and cleanliness:
"This is Canada, not China," Mr. Rapps said, according to testimony cited in a court decision. "We take showers and shampoo every day, wash hands with soap, flush the toilet after use. … This is my kitchen, not yours. My kitchen, I want it clean. You Chinese eat like pigs."

The employees, many of them recent immigrants from China who did mostly manual jobs for as little as $5 an hour, were so stunned they walked off the job. Despite the diverse makeup of the staff, only the Chinese workers were summoned to the meeting, the court found.

The group returned the next day, demanding an apology, compensation and better upkeep of the kitchen and bathroom. When the two sides didn't see eye to eye, the workers filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

The case wound up in court, which concluded this month that the workers had suffered bias. Mr. Rapps's "infantilizing" remarks, made in an "arrogant and condescending tone," constituted "hurtful, degrading and humiliating comments" related to the workers' Chinese heritage, it said.
Of course, the company's lawyer argues the whole incident was just a guy getting mad -- not discrimination. I don't know. Perhaps instead, Rapps should have made a YouTube video entitled "Asians in the Workplace," where he could rant freely about meeting Canadian standards of cleanliness.

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