March 27, 2017 4:05 pm
Updated: March 27, 2017 7:31 pm

Jewish hairstylist’s discrimination case goes in front of Quebec Human Rights Tribunal

WATCH: A Jewish hairdresser is fighting against his Jewish boss, saying he wasn’t allowed to work on Saturdays because it’s the Sabbath.


After almost five years of fighting, Richard Zilberg got a chance to tell his story in front of the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

When Global News first spoke with him in November 2015, Zilberg claimed his former Jewish employer fired him from Spa Ora Zen in 2012 because he complained to a client about a policy put in place by the owner.

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“It’s been a long, a long case,” said Zilberg.

“It started in 2012 and it’s been on my mind almost daily and now I can put it behind me.”

Zilberg said the salon forbade Jewish employees, like himself, from working on Saturdays because of the Sabbath.

He then filed a human rights complaint, with the help of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

READ MORE: Jewish hairdresser, employer go head to head

In late 2015, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ordered the owner of the spa, Iris Gressy, to pay Zilberg $20,000 in material and punitive damages.

If not, the case would be heard in a court of law.

Gressy did not pay, so Zilberg’s complaint was brought to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Zilberg insists that, though it’s been a long road, he hopes others will see his case as an example.

“I believe that anybody who feels that they’ve been discriminated against, it’s an obligation not only to themselves, but to all of us [to speak out],” he said.

“It grows, it grows when people hide it and don’t come forward.”

The Commission’s lawyer has been unable to contact Gressy and the spa has since closed down.

WATCH BELOW: The Human Rights Commission has ordered a Jewish employer to pay her Jewish hairstylist $20,000 for allegedly forcing him not to work on Saturdays, and then firing him for speaking out against the policy. Global’s Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports.

Gressy did not show up in court on Monday.

When Global News spoke to her in November 2015, she disputed Zilberg’s claims and insisted she removed him from the schedule on Saturdays because of a personality conflict with another staff member.

“The most disappointing and the most disturbing part of this hearing is the fact that the defense, the defendant in this case, never responded and didn’t show up,” said CRARR’s Executive Director, Fo Niemi.

“Which is a sign of low respect for the rule of law and for the human rights legislation of this province.”

Niemi said it could be a few months before the tribunal renders a decision on Zilberg’s case.

If the court sides with him, it could then take another few months before Gressy is tracked down and forced to pay the damages.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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