The Halifax Regional Municipality has been ordered to pay almost $600,000 in damages to a former city bus mechanic who suffered racist discrimination on the job.
The man, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was awarded $593,417 in a decision released Wednesday by Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission board of inquiry chair Lynn Connors.
Last year, Connors found widespread racial discrimination and a poisoned work environment at Halifax Transit’s garage.
“It is my hope that the monetary award will send a clear message to (the municipality)and its supervisors of what their legal obligations are under the Human Rights Act to investigate and address potential violations,” Connors wrote.
The complainant is white, but his wife is African Nova Scotian, and black and Indigenous co-workers also suffered under the actions of a former co-worker.
Bruce Evans, the mechanic’s lawyer, had sought the maximum amount awarded under Canadian law for general damages, $367,000, and another $1.053 million in lost earnings and pension.
Evans had also sought a public interest remedy in the form of a 50-year target for municipal hirings of 25 per cent “non-white Caucasian employees,” but Connors rejected the idea.
“I do not have jurisdiction to make such an order,” said Connors. “Further such an order does not address diversity issues for individuals who possess other protected characteristics.”
Evans declined comment on the ruling, saying he needed to review it with his client, who is referred to as Y.Z. in commission documents, and said no decision has been made on a possible appeal.
The mechanic filed the complaint with the human rights commission over 12 years ago, in July 2006, saying he suffered from trauma due to the hostile workplace.
In her 2018 ruling, Connors said the complainant had been frightened and terrorized.
Allegations in the case included a message scrawled on the men’s bathroom wall, which said “all minorities not welcome; show you care, burn a cross.” It was signed by “a member of the Baby Hitler.”
The co-worker is also quoted as allegedly saying “racism should be a law that you can shoot somebody and get away with it.”
In Wednesday’s ruling, Connors awarded $105,650 in general damages and pre-judgment interest to the mechanic and $33,015 to his wife, whom she said had testified “to the significant impact this matter has had on her.”
Penalties were also set at $21,675 for the cost of future care for the mechanic and $433,077 for his past and future lost income, based on a retirement at age 60.
However, both figures were arrived at after a 50 per cent reduction imposed by Connors, who found that some of the complainant’s health issues were not linked to the acts of wrongful discrimination but to the death of a friend and a denial of long term disability benefits.
“(The municipality) cannot be held responsible for the impact of those events on Y.Z. Further, Y.Z. also had some other health issues, which are documented in the medical reports, which may have contributed as well, to his inability to work, such as recurring back pain and gastrointestinal issues.”
In a statement, Jacques Dube, the municipality’s chief administrative officer, said it accepts the damages decision.
“In May of 2018, the municipality accepted the decision of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry regarding its finding of racial harassment and discrimination by management and co-workers against a transit employee,” Dube said.
“I again take this opportunity to apologize to the complainant and family.”
Dube said Halifax is “unwavering in our commitment to continually do better.”