Mennonite teens awarded $26k against former employer for discrimination

November 11th, 2015 by

By Michelle Stephenson

In the recent decision, H.T. v. ES Holdings Inc. o/a Country Herbs, two Ontario teenagers succeeded on applications to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after they were fired by their employer, Country Herbs, for observing a religious holiday. The teens, a 16 year old girl and her 14 year old brother, are Christian Mennonites and were full-time employees of Country Herbs.

The sister, H.T., was scheduled to work on May 29, 2014 and had informed her employer that she would be unable to work that shift because it was the Christian Mennonite holiday of Himmelfahrt. She was told that, because of the company’s policy that vacation days could not fall on Thursdays, she was required to complete her shift as schedules or come in at 12am May 30. H.T. did not have transportation and was uncomfortable working that late at night; in fact, the siblings had previously arranged with Country Herbs not to have shifts after 10 pm.

When H.T. failed to show up to work on the holiday, Country Herbs called her home and, when informed that she would not be coming in, said that neither she nor her brother should ever come back.

The siblings’ resulting applications alleged that the company discriminated against them with respect to employment on the basis of creed and association, contrary to the Human Rights Code.

It was found that H.T. was discriminated against on the basis of creed, and was fired without her employer meeting its duty to accommodate her. Steps should have been taken to accommodate her religious requirements up to the point of undue hardship; the one midnight shift alternative offered to her by Country Herbs was not enough for them to meet this standard.

It was also found that her brother, J.T. who was not scheduled to work the holiday, was discriminated against on the basis of his association with his sister, with whom he shared religious beliefs.

The sister and brother were awarded $11,927.00 and $14,190 respectively, for both lost wages and injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. Country Herbs were ordered display Human Rights Code information cards throughout their premises, and to have the supervisors complete online “Human Rights 101” training within 60 days.

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