HRTO Awards Damages to Employee Told She Was “Too pretty to drive a forklift”

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

Damages

An Ontario woman was recently awarded close to $60,000 from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario following years of harassment and discrimination, including being told she was “too pretty to drive a forklift.”

Increased Responsibilities Followed By A Complicated Pregnancy

The employer hired the employee in January 2012. The employee is Vietnamese and was asked to help other Vietnamese employees by providing translations for them and helping them settle into the community. After just four months she was promoted to the position of manager on the planning team. She continued to help other Vietnamese employees while working 16 hours days, seven days a week in her new position

In July 2012 the employee experienced complications related to pregnancy and was advised by her doctor to take ten days off from work. When she showed a note from her doctor to her boss, he replied, “you are not like other Vietnamese.”

In November 2012, the employee was further advised by her doctor to reduce her work hours to part-time. When she showed the employer a note containing her doctor’s instructions, he responded by saying “you know you will get fired if you go half day.” She continued to work long hours, but was forced to stop working in the workplace in December, though she continued to file reports for the employer up until she had her baby in February 2013. She took one year of maternity leave and returned to work in February 2014.

Returning From Maternity Leave

Upon her return from maternity leave the employer told the employee “…within a month. If you cannot give me a perfect plan you need to stay home with your son.” At a meeting later in the month the employer called the employee a “stupid Vietnamese woman” in front of other employees.

As the year progressed the employee testified she continued to be yelled at while not receiving an increase in wages or a bonus. In October, she told the employee she planned to resign. When asked what he could do to encourage her to stay, she told him she would like another position, one that would allow her to have weekends off. The position she requested required her to drive a forklift. The employer told her “you’re too pretty to drive a forklift.” She resigned from her position in November 2014.

The Tribunal’s Decision

 The Tribunal found the employee had failed to accommodate the employee during her pregnancy and that the employer’s treatment of the employee upon her return from maternity leave amounted to harassment and created a poisoned work environment.

The employee was awarded $25,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, $16,399.29 for unpaid bonuses or raises as a result of discrimination, and $18,475 for loss of earnings as a result of discrimination.

At Arbesman Hamilton LLP we represent both employers and employees in all areas of employment law and workplace disputes. We can help you navigate situations involving discipline or termination as well as problems that arise in the workplace, including harassment. Call us at 416-481-5604 or contact us online to book a consultation today.