A cafeteria worker in Halifax who claimed she faced racial discrimination at work and complained to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has received an apology and a cash settlement from Aramark, her former employer.
Aramark has also committed to giving human rights and cultural sensitivity training to its Nova Scotia managers as part of a settlement with the complainant, Charmaine Wynn.
Wynn, who is black, was hired by Aramark in January 2010 as a part-time cashier for the food catering and management company in Halifax. She said the problems began in October of that year.
As the only black employee in her workplace, Wynn said she was treated differently. She claimed the cafeteria chef would ignore her when she spoke, or would answer her rudely.
According to the complaint filed with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Wynn said other employees joined in on ignoring her. She said when she complained to her manager, nothing happened.
'Racial' hand gestures
Wynn said in one instance, a colleague mocked her behind her back, "ridiculing me by making racial gestures (walking with a strut and making hand motions) and mocking me by saying, 'I gots to get the cream' over and over."
"I was shocked and hurt by this," Wynn said in her statement of claim.
She also said a female colleague once told her that "my colour was so dark that she would not be able to see me."
Wynn said her hours were reduced in comparison to white employees who had been hired after her. When she approached Aramark's head office with her concerns, they never called her back.
Wynn's doctor placed her on stress leave and in April 2011 her doctors wrote a letter to the employer stating she should not return to that work environment and a transfer was necessary. After two weeks, the employer did not respond and Wynn resigned.
The two sides agreed to a settlement in the fall.
Aramark admitted to no wrongdoing in the case but the company apologized and paid Wynn $7,500.
"We are committed to conducting our business with the utmost integrity and according to the highest ethical standards," David Freireich, a spokesman for Aramark, said in an emailed statement.
"We are happy to have reached a mutually agreeable resolution to this matter. With 270,000 employees, we believe that a mosaic of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs are what enable us to enrich and nourish the lives of the clients and customers we serve."
Wynn also received a written reference for her excellent service to the company.