A well-travelled man of Turkish descent says he never experienced racism until he moved to Moncton.

Erkin Demir says he was the target of numerous slurs and insults while working at the Future Shop.

And he has started the process of filing a complaint with the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission.

Demir grew up in Istanbul and has travelled extensively in Europe and North America, including to New York following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

'He did racist jokes about me, that I am going to blow up the planes.' - Erkin Demir

The 33-year-old, who graduated from the University of Prince Edward Island in 2006 with a degree in economics, says he never encountered racism until he moved to Moncton.

Demir says he was deeply hurt by the jokes and taunts he used to endure from fellow workers at Future Shop in Moncton.

"The worst joke, it was in the lunch room," said Demir.

"A guy, I cannot forget that. He did racist jokes about me, that I am going to blow up the planes. There were at least five to eight people in that lunchroom who heard that."

Demir said he was making good money as a Future Shop salesman, but he felt forced to quit in November 2011 after being demoralized by routine humiliation while working at the store for almost a full year.

"I've been to Germany three times, Holland two times. I studied in Cypress. I've been to 15 states in the U.S. and I've been to P.E.I., Alberta, Ontario, and it never happened in my life what happened in Future Shop," said Demir.

Small minds

Tim MacEwan, a former Future Shop employee, says comments directed at Demir were from "small-minded people." (CBC)

"Race-related, like religion-related," he said.

"Like for example, one guy, he says, 'They hire a terrorist' — my first day at Future Shop.

"The other guys say — I was buying a laptop for myself — he says, 'You are going to put a bomb in it.'"

Tim MacEwan worked alongside Demir at Future Shop. He no longer works there, but remains in touch with Demir. 

MacEwan witnessed the kind of remarks at Future Shop that upset Demir.

"It was from small-minded people on him being a Muslim or an Arab," said MacEwan, who has a degree in religious studies and has travelled in the Middle East," he said.

"He's not even an Arab, he's Turkish. They don't even speak Arabic, they speak Turkish.

Help needed

Sharon Steeves-Clark said Demir would be visibly distressed when he returned home from work. (CBC)

"It was from small-minded people who didn't even know what he stood for."

Demir now lives in St. George, but regularly returns to Moncton and visits Sharon Steeves-Clark, a retired nurse from whom he rented a room while living in Moncton.

Steeves-Clark said Demir showed visible signs of distress when he came home from work.

"I saw that he was getting run down, physically. And emotionally," she said.

"Depression did set in to the point where he needed help from a doctor, a GP."

Behaviour 'inconsistent' with Future Shop's values

Future Shop issued a statement by email in response to Demir's complaint.

It states, in part: "Future Shop takes its employee policies very seriously. Any discriminatory behaviour is completely inconsistent with the values of Future Shop, and inconsistent with the training our employees receive on an ongoing basis.

"We were contacted by Mr. Demir about 18 months after he left Future Shop, and we immediately began a thorough investigation that is still ongoing. We can discuss no specific details at this time out of respect for Mr. Demir's privacy and ongoing investigations.

"Please note we review our employee policies with every associate when they join our team. These policies are also reinforced with mandatory training. Our associates are encouraged to report suspected code or policy violations through multiple channels and we regularly provide both employee and leadership level training, covering a wide variety of topics, including prohibiting discrimination and respecting our differences."

When the commission does receive a complaint, its investigator tries to settle the dispute through conciliation.

If that is unsuccessful, the case is investigated further and a recommendation is made to the commission's board.

In its ruling, the board can dismiss the complaint or award lost wages or damages for things like humiliation or order reinstatement in the case of workplace human rights dispute.

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission doesn't confirm or deny the receipt of any complaint in accordance with its privacy policy.

The commission's ruling can be appealed to the courts by either party.

Demir is seeking a formal apology from Future Shop and assurance that employees are receiving better training to be more sensitive.