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Queen's University

Pizza Hut

Is the employer responsible for acts of religious discrimination committed by one employee against another?


In 1993, Huso Hadzic, a Bosnian Muslim, immigrated to Canada and was employed as a driver at a Pizza Hut in August 1994.  Prior to his immigration, he had been imprisoned by Serbs and had witnessed several executions of his countrymen including "zacklan", or decapitation. During the four months he worked at the pizzeria, he was the only Bosnian Muslim employed there. There were, however, seven Serbs working at the restaurant. In September 1994, Branko Arejevski, a Serbian driver, was hired to do Monday shifts. Every Monday, for a period of several months, Arejevski uttered death threats, including the threat of "zacklan", against Bosnian Muslims in general and against Hadzic and his family in particular. Unsure of his rights, Hadzic hesitantly approached his manager, complained and asked for help. His manager told both employees to stop fighting, to stay apart from one another, and to speak to one another in English so that she could monitor their conversations.  A little later on, Hadzic obtained permission from his employer to place a donation can for Bosnian Children on the counter of the store. Within ten days, the can had been defaced and removed. Someone had written four times the word "Serbian" across its surface. Once again, Hadzic appealed to his manager to intervene by demanding writing samples from the Serbian workers who had had access to the donation can. When she refused to do this, he took his complaint to the Human Rights Commission.  [Hadzic v. Pizza Hut Canada (1999), 37 C.H.R.R. D/252 (B.C.H.R.T.)]


Do the death threats and graffiti cited in this case amount to discrimination on the grounds of race and religion?

In the affirmative, do the measures taken by the manager save the employer from liability?





The Tribunal found that the death threats uttered by Arejevski against Hadzic amounted not only to discrimination on the grounds of race and religion but also to criminal harassment. Although there was no evidence indicating that Arejevski defaced the donation can, the graffiti itself pointed towards an environment poisoned by religious and racial discrimination.

The Tribunal found that the measures taken by the manager were insufficient because she made no attempt to follow up with Hadzic following the first complaint, and did nothing to investigate the second.  Furthermore, it found that  the employer had no clear policy on discrimination and no formal procedures for complaints. The Tribunal underscored, however, that according to the Supreme Court of Canada in Robichaud, every employer is responsible for the discriminatory actions of its employees. Even if the manager in the present case had done everything within her power to stop the discriminatory behaviors, Pizza Hut would have still been found guilty of discrimination under human rights law because in Robichaud, "the Court held that an employer's actions, in the face of discriminatory conduct by its employee, affect the remedial consequences of the actions rather than the issue of liability".

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000