Employer to Pay $70,000 + for Terminating an Employee Who Made UNFOUNDED Allegations of Discrimination

Posted: August 4, 2013 in Reprisal
Tags: , , , , ,

Businessman

Employers can be liable for reprising against an employee who makes an allegation of discrimination in the workplace – even if the allegation is unfounded.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario recently released its decision in Morgan v. Herman Miller Canada Inc. Aldeen Morgan worked for Herman Miller Canada Inc. from 2007 until 2010. Morgan alleged that his employer had discriminated against him on the basis of his colour by assigning him demeaning tasks, inappropriately disciplining him and ultimately firing him for complaining about the mistreatment he had been experiencing.

Vice-Chair Geneviève Debané found that Morgan had failed to establish that his employer had discriminated against him on the basis of his colour. The allegations of discrimination were unfounded, however Vice-Chair Debané found that Morgan genuinely believed his employer had infringed his Code rights.  Debané found that Herman Miller had failed to address the complaint, and rather terminated Morgan because of his allegations. In doing so, Debané found that Herman Miller had reprised against Morgan contrary to the Code and ordered in excess of $70,000.00 in damages.

This decision has received substantial criticism because the decision “awards significant human rights damages to an individual who had not been discriminated against in any way”. It has been called “disturbing” in a recent article by an employment lawyer. Another blogger stated:

In our time, this is what “human rights” has come down to …. punishing his employer not for treating him unfairly, but for refusing to kowtow to his threats…

Protecting employees who raise genuine concerns in the workplace related to human rights is not disturbing. What would be disturbing, in my opinion, is to allow employers to terminate employees who genuinely believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace and who have had the courage to come forward and voice their concerns. Employers have a duty to investigate. In the absence of malice or ill intent in making the complaint, employees should be protected from reprisal. Vice-Chair Debané came to the proper conclusion in this decision.

Case Citation: Aldeen Morgan v. Herman Miller Canada Inc. and Corrado Fermo, 2013 HRTO 650

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