MONTREAL — Madisons New York Grill and Bar has issued an apology regarding recent allegations of racism at the restaurant’s downtown location.
As Global News first reported last week, Lettia McNickle was allegedly sent home from work twice after showing up with braids in her hair.
“I was good at my job,” said McNickle. “I’ve never had a complaint before. Even the new place I’m at now, they love me. I do my job well.”
The 19 year old is overwhelmed by the attention she’s received since she first spoke out about the incident.
“I have a lot of people behind me, that’s for sure – so that’s a good thing – people of all kinds of cultures and races,” said McNickle.
Many Montrealers have since come forward with similar stories of discrimination.
“When I decide to leave my hair in its natural state which is an Afro, and it goes as it does, then I get the commentary from my boss or supervisor or manager, ‘what’s happening,? What is that? Why is your hair like that? Did you put your hair in an electric socket?’ all these kinds of jokes,” said Gina Clarke, a 28-year-old hairstylist.
“We need to change the understanding of culture.”
McNickle is in the process of filing a discrimination complaint against Madisons with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations is ready to challenge the company’s interpretation of the dress code.
“She might have been treated differently because of her hair which is associated with her skin colour, her race, her socio-cultural background,” said CRARR’s Director Fo Niemi, who plans to use the under-representation of blacks in downtown Montreal businesses as an argument in court.
“The broader picture … is the question of the employment of young black women and men in downtown Montreal, especially in upscale businesses.”
The owner of the Madisons franchise in question has refused Global News’ repeated request for an interview, but the head office released a statement claiming the incident had nothing to do with race or discrimination and they issued an apology.
“Madisons NY Grill and Bar acknowledges that there has been an incident… reported in the media over the last few days,” the statement reads. “As soon as we found out about the incident, we have reached out to the restaurant owner in order to take appropriate measures.” (Read the full statement below).
“We are an equal opportunity employer and are proud of our diverse workforce and clientele. As in any organization, there is an internal protocol to follow and a dress code to respect to guarantee that our customers’ experience is ideal… We want to apologize if this situation has caused harm to Ms. McNickle, to her family and friends.”
“It’s an apology, I guess,” said McNickle while reading the public statement for the first time, “but it would mean more to hear from my boss directly.”
Her mother is relieved the story is making waves and hopes others will be encouraged to come forward.
“I didn’t expect it would have gone this far but I’m glad that it has,” said Huelette McNickle. “It’s unacceptable straight across the line, period.”