Racism and employment not always a black and white issue

White supremacists carry a Confederate flag in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White supremacists carry a Confederate flag in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Wearing a Swastika-emblazoned t-shirt to work or flying a Confederate flag on a vehicle may not be the best way of keeping a job.

White supremacy and racism aren't just relegated to our U.S. cousins. Even though Canadians are generally known for their tolerance, compassion and humanity, there are those who make no qualms about their racist outlooks and notions that the white race reigns supreme. In fact, white nationalist groups are on the rise in Canada as are hate crimes and some members of these groups are blatantly vocal about their beliefs.

Some neo-Nazis are so emboldened that they bring their racist dialogue, dress and demeanour into the workplace. But can an employee be fired for giving the “Heil Hitler” sign outside of work hours?

Worker waved away over Confederate flag

A construction worker in Ontario who showed up to work with a Confederate flag waving on his truck quickly found himself in the unemployment line. The employee even posed for photos next to the flag – a move his employer did not take lightly. The Confederate flag is a common white supremacist symbol even though it’s still used by southern non-extremists as a part of history.

The man said he did it for a laugh but his employer, who has adopted a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and racism, didn’t see the humour in it and gave the man the boot.

Big box retailer cashes out employee

A large retail chain recently let one of its employees go in Ontario after she was allegedly discriminatory against three students. The employee demanded to see identification before cashing them out. The company dismissed the employee, indicating it does not tolerate behaviour that contradicts the company’s core values of respect.

Meanwhile, two Alberta government employees were dismissed over a racist text message about an indigenous educator. The text message between two Alberta Health Services (AHS) employees referred to the educator by a racially derogatory name. The two employees were fired immediately. An AHS spokesperson said all AHS employees must adhere to a code of conduct, part of which includes treating all people with fairness and dignity. The slur was apparently was transmitted by accident to an education board member.

Farm fined for calling migrant workers “monkeys”

A migrant worker working on an Ontario farm claimed his supervisor called him and fellow co-workers monkeys. He said when he complained about the comment, he was terminated. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the farm owner to pay the man $23,500 in owed wages and for loss of dignity and reprisal.

Teacher’s after-school conduct leads to license loss

A racist Ontario teacher had his license yanked after being found guilty of professional misconduct. He was a member of well-known racist groups and attended a birthday celebration in honour of Adolf Hitler. The school board he worked for was sent a videotape of him speaking in front of a Nazi flag at a Nazi rally.

Racists pose problems for their employers by making fellow employees uncomfortable and by possibly tarnishing the reputation of the company. If such workers create a hostile work environment and if what they do after they punch out has an impact on their work environment, an employer can terminate their employment, as these cases have shown.
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