Bus driver loses discrimination case over 'Casual Friday' kilt

A bus driver with Grand River Transit has lost his fight to wear a kilt to work.

Tracy Macdonnell was sent home to change when he wore a kilt to work in 2017

A Grand River Transit bus driver filed a human rights complaint alleging he was discriminated against for wearing a kilt to work. (Jens Schlueter/The Canadian Press/The Associated Press)

A bus driver with Grand River Transit has lost his fight to wear a kilt to work.

Tracy Macdonnell was sent home to change when he wore a kilt on a casual Friday in October 2017. 

The next year, he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The complaint was made against the Region of Waterloo, which runs Grand River Transit, alleging he was the victim of discrimination based on his ancestry.

Last week, an adjudicator found that "although it is clear that the applicant is proud of his ancestry and wears a kilt on special occasions, I find that he has not pointed to any evidence in his testimony to establish that he had the right, protected under the [Human Rights] Code, to wear a kilt at work while on duty."

Macdonnell asked for remuneration for the cost of the kilt rental as well as damages for injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect. He also asked to be compensated for loss of enjoyment and lost wages of $25,119.

'Listens to Scottish music and eats haggis'

Macdonnell is a 14-year employee of Grand River Transit.

He wore a kilt on Oct. 20, 2017, one day after the public transportation operator sent out a notice to all staff that forbid the wearing of kilts while on duty, according to the decision.

In the decision from human rights case adjudicator Josée Bouchard, Macdonnell's evidence included an exchange with his supervisor.

He said he told his supervisor he would wear a kilt, and his supervisor said, "No, you are not." 

Macdonnell apparently said, "Yes, I am," and proceeded to wear a kilt the following day.

He "acknowledged that he does not own a kilt but rented one to wear on casual Friday," according to the tribunal's decision.

Macdonnell wasn't disciplined, according to the decision.

During the hearing, Macdonnell tried to establish the importance of the kilt to his Scottish ancestry. He emphasized that that even though his citizenship is Canadian, his ancestry is Scottish.

He testified that he often "listens to Scottish music and eats haggis." He said he he was married wearing a kilt and sometimes wears it at weddings or parties.

Bouchard ultimately ruled "the applicant has not established that wearing a kilt, and more specifically wearing a kilt at work, is intricately linked to his ancestry."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.