Manitoba hotel ordered to pay $15,000 to harassed employee

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has imposed fines in a workplace discrimination complaint against a Gillam hotel.
The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has imposed fines in a workplace discrimination complaint against a Gillam hotel. MHRC website

A company that owned the Gillam Motor Inn has been ordered to pay compensation to an employee who filed a harassment complaint.

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MHRC) issued a statement Friday saying “Wanda Ross, a woman of African and First Nations descent worked as a waitress… during her employment she was repeatedly subjected to racial slurs and discriminatory comments by two individuals, one of whom was the general manager.”

“When she reported the harassment to one of the owners she was told she was ‘imagining things’ and was forced to tolerate the harassing conduct,” the statement read.

Global News reached out to the hotel for comment and was told the hotel is now under new ownership.

Nav Sahota, hotel manager and part owner, said she and her father bought the hotel from Mike Blahey in August of  2017. She was surprised to learn of the MHRC case.

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“We have no room for that. We are very sad this happened. We have only had the hotel for a few months and we are working to improve it,” Sahota said.  She also said Ross is not one of her employees.

The MHRC statement said the Gillam Motor Inn was owned by 4888970 Manitoba Ltd., a company that operates more than 10 hotels in northern Manitoba and north-western Ontario.  The company has been ordered to pay $15,000 to Ross as compensation for ‘injury to her dignity’ as a result of the harassment.

“I am very relieved, but this isn’t just going to go away. I have to live with this every day of my life. More has to be done to make sure people aren’t treated this way,”Ross said.

Human Rights Adjudicator Lawrence Pinsky ruled “the owners of the Gillam Motor Inn did not take reasonable steps to deal with harassment in their workplace, contrary to The Human Rights Code”.

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The company was fined $2,ooo for reckless conduct in their handling of Ross’ requests for help, as well as $500 for not participating in the Human Rights investigation.  They have also been ordered to work with the Commission to come up with a plan to deal with workplace discrimination.

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The Commission said decisions like this one should be a reminder to businesses that they are required under the Human Rights Code to provide work environments free from harassment.

“The decision also signals to employers that their employees, including those managed remotely, must be held to standards of dignity and
respect in the workplace. Especially now, with the increased attention on harassment in the workplace, it is important for businesses to take a good look at what mechanisms they have in place to make sure their employees are included and respected”, Commission Chairperson Brenlee Carrington Trepel, said.

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