US & Canada

Canada resort staff were fired for being white - tribunal

A waitress serves dessert Image copyright Getty Creative
Image caption Seven staff members, including a caterer, a waitress, a maintenance worker, an aesthetician and a graphic designer, say they were let go because they were white

A Canadian human rights tribunal says seven resort employees were discriminated against for being white.

The Human Rights Tribunal in the westernmost province of British Columbia awarded them more than C$173,000 ($132,000, £102,000).

Resort owner Kin Wa Chan said he wanted to hire Chinese employees because he believed they were cheaper.

The tribunal found the seven staff were forced out in August 2016, and replaced with Chinese workers.

Tribunal chair Diana Juricevic ruled this qualified as discrimination based on race, which is against British Columbia's human rights code.

She dismissed the complaint of an eighth former employee.

"Over a period of months, Mr Chan repeatedly said that he wanted to replace Caucasian employees with ethnically Chinese employees to reduce labour costs," Ms Juricevic wrote in her decision, published last week.

Mr Chan bought the Spruce Hill Resort and Spa in rural British Columbia in 2015, and began extensive renovations in January the next year.

The resort operated at reduced capacity during the renovations, and so Mr Chan let many of the staff go.

Seven of the employees that were kept on during the renovations ended up filing the human rights complaint, after they were fired the following summer or resigned in the course of several days because of what they described as a hostile work environment.

The largest award, of more than C$62,000, went to Clare Fast, who had worked for the resort for 20 years as fitness and human resources manager.

Ms Fast testified she heard Mr Chan say that he would not have to pay Chinese employees overtime.

Her belief that she was fired and replaced with a Chinese employee was corroborated by her colleague and fellow complainant, resort bookkeeper Melonie Eva.

In a diary entry dated 20 July 2016, Ms Eva wrote that "[Mr Chan] keeps saying he wants Chinese people" and "[Ms Stocks] and [Ms Fast] must go".

On 3 August, Mr Chan told Ms Fast her human resources tasks would be given to a new employee, an ethnically Chinese student with no human resources experience. With her hours significantly reduced, Ms Fast asked to be laid off.

In addition to the findings of discrimination based on race, the tribunal also found that Mr Chan sexually harassed Ms Eva, the resort's bookkeeper, on a business trip to China to purchase supplies for the renovations.

On the trip, the tribunal heard Ms Eva was dismayed to find he had only booked one hotel room for the two of them.

According to her testimony, she became upset and told Mr Chan that they were not sharing a room.

She remembers Mr Chan saying words to the effect "relax" and that "in China, we do things the Chinese way".

She told him she was married and would not share the room, and he booked her another one.

He said the single room was an attempt to save money, but the tribunal did not find his testimony credible.

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