The company of a former Vegreville mayor is fighting an Alberta human rights tribunal's order to pay a gay, Indigenous prospective employee more than $56,000 in damages for refusing to hire him.
In October, tribunal chair Karen Scott found Vegreville Autobody, partly owned by former Vegreville mayor Myron Hayduk, guilty of violating the Alberta Human Rights Act when the company refused to hire Rambo Landry for an office assistant position.
"I find that Mr. Landry's race, sexual orientation and marital status were factors in the respondent's decision not to hire him," Scott wrote in the Oct. 17 decision.
On Nov. 17, Vegreville Autobody launched an appeal of the decision, saying the $56,000 payment is "unjustified and unreasonable."
Hayduk has declined comment. Landry could not be reached Tuesday.
Hayduk discriminated in the workplace
Rambo Landry is a Dene First Nation man. He is married to an RCMP officer.
In 2014, Landry was looking for work after his husband was relocated to Mundare, Alta., to work with the Vegreville RCMP detachment.
Landry was invited to Vegreville Autobody to interview for a vacant office assistant position on Aug. 27, 2014, by then-mayor Hayduk.
The interview started with basic questions about Landry's education and skills, but then took a strange turn, according to Landry's testimony. Landry stated that Hayduk asked him what he would do if a customer had an issue with his sexual orientation.
Hayduk then allegedly said he did "not believe in political correctness" and that "straight people are bullied to accept gay people and that, because straight people are the majority, the tide will eventually turn against gay people," according to the decision.
Scott wrote in the decision that Hayduk's comments during the interview "indicated a preference for an employee who was not a racial minority, gay or married to an RCMP officer."
Payments 'unjustified and unreasonable'
Landry said he fell into a deep depression after the 2014 interview that made his grades slip at school and put strains on his marriage. A registered psychologist who treated the couple for several months said Landry started showing signs of post-traumatic stress.
Scott wrote in the decision that $20,000 should be awarded to Landry as compensation for any emotional or psychological damages. The remainder of the payment, $36,000, was issued as lost wages for a year and a half of employment with the company.
In the autobody shop's appeal, it is argued that the payments are "unjustified and unreasonable given the limited interaction between Mr. Landry and Myron Hayduk and the unlikelihood [that] serious emotional and psychological damage would result from a 1.25-hour conversation."
The appeal also outlines other reasons why the decision should be re-evaluated, including a lack of evidence of Landry's employment history, Landry's refusal to file claims for emotional injury and a failure by the Alberta Human Rights Commission to call certain witnesses to the hearing.
Legal battle continues
A judge ruled on Monday that the appeal was approved. However, the legal debate does not end there.
Normally, appeals to any decisions made by the Court of Queen's Bench need to be filed within 30 days of the decision.
A spokesperson from the human rights commission said Mr. Landry received the appeal on time, but the commission, which made the original decision, did not. The commission can now argue that the appeal was not filed to all parties on time and can question the validity of the appeal.