Human Rights Damages
THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT CONDUCTING INVESTIGATIONS
By Daniel Lublin and Daniel Chodos
What do you do when an employee complains of dis-crimination
Photo by Comstock Images / Photos.com
– but you don’t believe him?
This scenario played out recently at the Ontario
Human Rights Tribunal when Aldeen Morgan, a
black man who worked for Herman Miller Canada as a furniture
installation scheduler, felt that he was being treated differently due
to his skin colour.
In Morgan v. Herman Miller Canada Inc., 2013 HRTO 650,
Morgan claimed that Herman Miller discriminated against him
by assigning him demeaning tasks outside of his job description
such as cleaning up garbage and moving furniture, ordering him
to work outside regular business hours, putting him on probation
without a justifiable reason and sending an insensitive email about
a group of mostly-black contractors with whom he worked. He
felt this conduct was racially motivated.
Morgan increasingly grew wary of the way he was treat-ed.
He complained to numerous members of Herman Miller’s
management team, including its human resources manager and
his direct manager, claiming he was the victim of discrimination,
commenting on one occasion that he felt like he had to put on
“white gloves and a mask.” Many of Morgan’s complaints were di-rected
towards the president of the company, as Morgan felt that
the president’s cold disposition towards him set the tone for how
others felt they could act towards him. In fact, at the very moment
that Morgan was complaining to his manager about how the pres-ident
treated him, he was summoned by the president to fetch a
box from the trunk of his car in preparation for a party the office
was having later that night.
Morgan had enough and walked into a director’s office and
complained that this was discrimination, that he thought it was
serious enough to sue the company and that he felt he was being
treated like a “black slave”. The director took down Morgan’s com-plaint
in writing and sent the details to Herman Miller’s HR team
and the president.
One month later, Morgan was fired for his alleged role in
spreading a rumour that the company would be sold. During the
intervening month, Herman Miller did nothing to investigate
Morgan’s concerns that he was treated adversely because he was
black and no one from human resources or the management team
took any steps to speak to Morgan about his concerns.
Figuring that his termination was in reprisal for his complaint,
Morgan launched a significant human rights application against
the company and its president. He claimed they schemed to ter-minate
his employment because of his complaints and that they
accused him of misconduct to create a subtext to terminate his
employment without it looking related to his complaint.
HAD HERMAN MILLER NOT FUMBLED
THE WAY IT DEALT WITH MORGAN’S
COMPLAINT, IT WOULD NOT HAVE
BEEN LIABLE FOR DISCRIMINATION.
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ MARCH/APRIL 2014 ❚ 13