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Employee’s racial slurs put B.C. concrete company on the line for discrimination damages

Whitewater Concrete and employee ordered to pay former worker for injury to dignity, self-respect
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered Whitewater Concrete Ltd. and one of its employees to pay damages to a former worker over racial slurs that were made against him. (The Canadian Press)

A Metro Vancouver concrete company must pay the price for racial slurs one of its employees used against another, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Raul Martinez Johnson filed a complaint with the tribunal several years ago after he said numerous coworkers at Whitewater Concrete Ltd. regularly discriminated against him and forced him to quit.

Martinez Johnson identifies as Mayan and Black. He worked as a carpenter with the company from March to November 2019, during which time he said coworkers called him the Spanish words for “monkey” and “ape”, among other more serious racial slurs. He said on the day he quit, one of those coworkers assaulted him as well.

In her decision from last month, tribunal member Amber Prince said she found there was enough evidence to support some of the allegations, but not all of them. Specifically, she found a coworker named Nicolas Pacheco did call Martinez Johnson a monkey or ape on at least two occasions.

Pacheco admitted to this, but argued that he had thought Martinez Johnson was only Latino, and therefore couldn’t have meant the remarks in a racist manner. He said he had rather meant that Martinez Johnson was sometimes careless with his work and often expressed “archaic” or “primitive” views about women.

Prince said intention doesn’t matter in a discrimination ruling, though. All that counts is whether it occurred and if the recipient of it was negatively impacted.

“This stereotype is especially harmful because it has been exploited by Europeans for centuries to justify colonial rule over people deemed as ‘primitive,’ less ‘civilized,’ and therefore less human,” she wrote in her Dec. 23 decision. “Mr. Martinez Johnson is an expert in his own experience.”

Martinez Johnson testified that the remarks made him feel embarrassed and disrespected. In a text exchange presented as evidence, he compared the name calling to being treated “like a dog.”

Prince said there wasn’t enough evidence to convince her that the use of other racial slurs or the assault had happened. She also rejected a separate claim from Martinez Johnson that Whitewater Concrete did nothing about things, pointing to a supervisor who facilitated a conversation between the men when the issues arose.

Despite this, the company is still on the line for the actions of its employees. Prince found Pacheco’s racial slurs amounted to discrimination and said both he and Whitewater Concrete are liable for paying Martinez Johnson $2,500 for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect.

READ ALSO: B.C. human rights tribunal awards $150,000 in child welfare discrimination case


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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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