Seven employees of a Canadian hotel were fired for being white, a court has found. They were let go, as BBC News reports, because the owner believed he could cut costs by replacing them with Chinese workers who would work for less pay.
Kin Wa Chan bought the Spruce Hill Resort and Spa in rural British Columbia in 2015. The following January, he began extensive renovations of the aging structure. Considering that it was the off-season and that the building was undergoing renovation, the resort operated at a reduced capacity. Chan laid off or fired several employees during that renovation.
The handful that remained, however, soon found themselves unwanted, they claimed in a lawsuit.
Within a period of months, seven of the eight remaining employees had resigned or been fired, after working in what they described as a “hostile work environment.” Specifically, Chan made no secret about the fact that he wanted to fire the white workers and replace them with Chinese workers, believing that they would work for less money. Further, he reportedly claimed that Chinese employees would work overtime without asking for overtime pay.
Resort bookkeeper Melonie Eva kept notes. On July 20, 2016, for example, she wrote that Chan was naming names.
“[Mr Chan] keeps saying he wants Chinese people… [Ms Stocks] and [Ms Fast] must go.”
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On August 3, Ms. Fast learned that she was essentially out of a job: the human resources manager was told that she had her hours had been reduced and that the lion’s share of her duties would be handed over to a Chinese man with no human resources experience. Fast asked to be laid off so she could collect unemployment benefits.
Chan’s alleged hostile work environment also extended to sexual harassment, the court found. When Mr. Chan booked a business trip with Eva, Chan only booked one room for the two of them. Eva, who is married, complained; Chan reportedly responded by saying that that’s just how they do things in China. He eventually relented and booked Eva her own room. He later told the court that he simply wanted to save money, a claim that the court did not find “credible.”
The employees brought their case to British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal, which found that Chan had indeed violated their human rights by way of racial discrimination, which is illegal in Canada. The tribunal ordered judgments totaling $132,000 USD to the employees, the largest award – $62,000 CDN ($47,000 USD) – going to Clare Fast, who had been with the resort for 20 years.