Please enable javascript to view this page in its intended format.

Queen's University
 

Place of Origin, Race and Religion

Chieriro v Michetti, 2013 AHRC

What happens when an employer abuses a new Canadian employee?

Full Case

Facts

Patrick Chieriro is a Kenyan refuge who came to Canada in 2004 and who was hired to work as a bookkeeper with the employer in 2007. He encountered several problems:

Mortgage

Three months after beginning work, two representatives of the employer (Mr Michetti and Mr Enzo Campoli) asked Mr Chieriro to co-sign a mortgage (they presented him only with the signature page). They assured him that it was only for one month, after which Mr. Michetti's brother would take over the mortgage.   Even though the associates did not threaten to fire him if he did not sign, Mr. Chieriro felt Intimidated and signed, fearing that he would lose his job if he refused.  One month later, the two men asked Mr. Chieriro to sign another document, which would "complete the process". Mr. Chieriro asked for but did not receive a copy of the document, which he believed was releasing him from the previous mortgage. In fact, he had just signed a second mortgage!. He began to receive notifications from the bank asking him for payments. Mr. Michetti asked him to lie to the bank about not having work. Finally, he received a statement of claim seeking recovering for default of the mortgage.  He was eventually removed from the claim.

Religion

Mr. Chieriro was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. His request not to work a Friday evening shift, in order to respect his religious obligation not to work on the Sabbath, was refused. He was told "not to being religion to the place of work" (para 17). When asked about the contents of his sandwich one day, he was told that "if a religion teaches you not to eat pork, that is not a good religion to follow". Finally, when he asked Mr. Campoli whether a wedding had been religious or secular, he was told "everthing is religion, religion, religion to you". (19)  A threatening message left by Mr. Michetti made allusion to Mr. Chieriro's religion in a degrading and angry manner.

Car

Mr. Chieriro was promised a car as part of his employment contract. He made arrangements to buy a new car, but was told that he was to take over ownership of Mr. Michetti's daughter's 1995 BMW. He was given a written bill of sale (no money exchanged hands) and he registered the car in his name. A threatening message left by Mr. Michetti stated that Mr. Chieriro owed $9000 for the car and that he was to pay or to lose the car.

Work environment

When Mr. Chieriro began to question Mr. Michetti about the mortgage, his pay cheques began to decrease and to bounce. He was told that they were deducting money for the car - however no one had ever discussed a deduction plan with him.  By April 2009, he was overwhelmed with what he found to be an "unbearable work environment" (para23). "Fearful and ill" (para23) he stopped coming to work. He was not provided with a Record of Employment which delayed the process of receiving EI benefits (para24)

Name calling and threat

Mr. Chieriro made several allegations of derogatory comments made to him at work about his English. He brought into evidence a phone message left by Mr. Michetti which was threatening in tone. In this message, Mr. Michetti claims that Mr. Chieriro quit his job (so didn't deserve EI), that he signed the mortgage and was therefore liable, and that he owed him $9000 for the car. He made a series of derogatory comments, referring to Mr. Chieriro as "a black bastard" "a fucking religious man", about not being in "Africa" but in Canada. Mr. Chieriro testified that he had to call the police on Mr Michetti when he showed up at his apartment.  This increased the feelings of fear and intimidation that had driven him to stay away from work (para 26-28)

Issues

Did Mr. Michetti discriminate against Mr Chieriro?

Decisions

Yes.

Reasons

The respondents did not provide a response or show up to the hearing.  The Tribunal, therefore, heard the evidence of the complainant and made a finding of prima facie discrimination.

The Chair found that the respondent discriminated against the respondents on the grounds of religion (refusal to accommodate, derogatory comments), race/ancestry/place of origin (derogatory comment),  and colour (derogatory comments).

He also found that the respondents took advantage of a new Canadian in six ways which amount to prima facie discrimination:

  1. "I find that the respondents took advantage of a recent immigrant by transferring a used car to him in a highly questionable manner. This is prima facie discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry and place of origin. (para 39c). 
  2. Mr Campoli responding to Mr. Chieriro's curiosity about the out of country wedding in the manner that he did, in the context of the overall environment created by the respondents, is prima facie discrimination; (39d);
  3. "Mr Chieriro's background (including his views that bosses are to be heeded) plus the reality that Mr. Chieriro was new to Canada were used by the respondents to exploit and abuse Mr. Chieriro. Additional behaviours that must be viewed within this context and which I find constitute prima facie discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin include requesting Mr Chieriro to sign a mortgage document by placing only the signatory page in front of him in a closed door office; (39e)
  4. seeking to obtain an additional mortgage without properly informing Mr. Chieriro of so doing, and under the guise that his signature would remove him from the existing mortgage; (39e)
  5.  and 3) asking Mr. Chieriro to lie to the bank about not working (39e);
  6. refusing to provide a Record of Employment, and attempts to intimidate Mr. Chieriro. The words of Mr. Michetti in the telephone message: "And if you're gonna say you didn't quit, then I'll fire you, but either way you're not drawing EI for something that isn't" are clear and unequivocal in convening an intention to prevent Mr. Chieriro from obtaining EI benefits. (39e)

Remedy

$20,000 in general damages

$1,350 in pre-termination wage loss

$10,500 in post-termination wage loss

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000