Three servers at a downtown restaurant in Montreal have filed human rights complaints alleging they were fired because of racial discriminination.
The servers — who are all people of colour — worked at 1909 Taverne Moderne, a restaurant adjacent to Montreal’s Bell Centre and co-owned by food service company Cara and the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, since it opened in October 2017. In mid-January, each of the three servers had individual meetings with the restaurant’s manager during their shifts and were dismissed. They weren’t given any warnings or notice — they had all surpassed the three-month period in which Quebec employees can be terminated without cause with no notice — and they claim they weren’t given written reasons for their terminations, a requirement under Quebec employment standards legislation.
The fired workers all claimed they weren’t given specific reasons for dismissal and the manager told each of them separately their work ethic and appearance should be more like two other servers who were white francophones.
Each of the three said Fourges was not able to identify specific instances that justified their dismissal, although the general manager reportedly suggested that the servers lacked experience. Each of them has three to four years’ experience as a server.
"He gives me the name of two white French Quebecers, and he tells me, 'If everyone were like them I'd be happy. They give good client service; they come to work prepared and on time, and they have a good appearance,'" one of the fired servers, Fahmidia Khatun, told CBC News. "Maybe they think white French Quebecers are the people who represent 1909 for them. It's not acceptable. It's not supposed to be this way," Khatun said.
Another of the servers, Terry Ngala, expressed the same feelings.
"The moment he gave me that phrase — the comparison with the two white colleagues, mentioning their attention to detail and their appearance — it's the word 'appearance' that really came to mind," Ngala told CBC News, noting that the restaurant’s servers wore the same uniform and received training on how to wear it properly.
Restaurant co-owner Cara said it has launched a third-party investigation into the firings and “allegations of racism” based on complaints the three servers made to its human resources department.