Trucking company must pay $25,000 for racial insults to employee

Human rights tribunal found owner frequently taunted South Asian employees and fired dispatcher after she stood up to him
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 02/17/2010

An Ontario trucking company must pay a former employee $25,000 after the employee was subjected to racial taunts and insults before eventually being fired, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Cheryl Khan said Lynn Tompkins, the owner of Lynx Trucking Transportation in Toronto, called her and other employees of South Asian background racist names and also used derogatory terms to refer to her children, from the time she started with the company in September 2007 as a dispatcher. She also reported he said people of “East Indian” background were “stupid and ignorant” and she was a “stupid immigrant.”

Khan and other former employees testified before the tribunal that Tompkins asked why the company couldn’t hire “good white people” and made rude comments when several employees asked for the Hindu religious holiday Diwali off.

When Khan told Tompkins he couldn’t make comments like these, she said he swore at her. After asking him to stop several times, he fired her when she took two days off to be with her son in the hospital.

“It was so poisonous there — one of the most traumatic experiences of my life,” Khan said in a statement. “I feel badly that people are still working there and are afraid to say anything.

Tompkins denied he made the comments and said he was being set up. He provided current employees as witnesses who said he didn’t use racist language and he was just a “tough boss.” He also said Khan was fired because she was a poor worker and wasted company time by using Facebook at work and coming to work late.

The tribunal found Tompkins and his witnesses were inconsistent and contrived to hide his behaviour, while Khan and the other former employees had “clear and unproblematic testimony.” It found the atmosphere at Lynx was poisonous and racial epithets were common. Tompkins’ “deliberately cruel” insults showed he felt Kahn to be inferior, said the tribunal.

The tribunal ordered Lynx to pay Kahn $25,000 for the harm she experienced from the discriminatory treatment as well as $6,750 in lost wages from being wrongfully dismissed.

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