Human Rights Update: Minimum Wage Cook Receives Large Damage Award

Aug 18, 2014

The Facts

Shirley Jensen worked as a cook in a restaurant and earned $ 10.25 per hour. She had fibromyalgia. To manage pain, she attended a pain clinic twice a week. From time to time, she also needed to obtain major treatments which required two days off work. These days changed when the medical facility changed its days of operation. The employer refused to permit her to change her days off and fired her. Ms. Jensen secured another job 15 weeks later.

The Complaint

Ms. Jensen filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (the Tribunal) claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of her disability. She represented herself at the hearing.

The Decision

The Tribunal ordered the two owners of the restaurant to pay Ms. Jensen 15 weeks pay or $ 7,380. Even though she did not ask for compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect, the Tribunal ordered the employer to pay Ms. Jensen an additional $ 15, 000 in general damages.

For more information on the Ontario Human Rights Code, click here

Lessons to be learned

1. An employer must grant unpaid time off work to an employee to attend required medical appointments if the employee cannot schedule appointments outside her regular hours of work.

2. An employee can bring no cost legal proceedings against an employer under the Human Rights Code.

3. An employee can represent herself at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

4. Adjudicators at the Tribunal will order an employer to pay an employee damages for the injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect even if the employee does not ask for these damages.

5. A minimum wage employee with relatively short service can be awarded significant damages under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

For the past 25 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416 317-9894 or at [email protected]

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