London

London woman fired by McDonald's after she reported staff using N-word at work

A London woman was fired from her part-time job at McDonald's shortly after she reported overhearing other staff members using the N-word on the job to her general manager. 

Jamila Adan lost her job shortly after she reported someone using the N-word at work

Jamila Adan holds up the nametag she wore during her short career with McDonald's. She was fired shortly after she reported a racist workplace incident to her general manager. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

A London woman was fired from her part-time job at McDonald's shortly after she reported overhearing other staff members using the N-word on the job to her general manager. 

Two weeks after Jamila Adan reported the incident, she said she was fired without warning or feedback and when she insisted on getting a reason for her dismissal, she was told she didn't "achieve minimum standards." 

It was very dehumanizing to be treated that way.- Jamila Adan

"They were telling us it was a very friendly environment and it was like a family and I bought into all of that, so I didn't expect this."

"It's almost like you're nothing, you're just a disposable thing. 'you came here you challenged us, we get rid of you,'" she said. "It was very dehumanizing to be treated that way."

Adan began work at the McDonald's franchise in the Oxford Street West and Wonderland Road area on July 14. 

"When I was first hired, honestly I loved it," she said. "There was nothing about the job that I felt I couldn't do." 

"They gave us training on a respective work environment, health and safety, diversity training, it sounded all good. It made me 100 per cent comfortable." 

N-word overheard on a busy shift

Jamila Adan was fired from this McDonald's shortly after she reported overhearing staff using the N-word on the job. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

That comfort quickly vanished about two weeks later, during a busy shift. She said she overheard two staff members using racist language in the workplace. 

"The first thing that caught my attention was hearing someone say 'oh you're not supposed to use the n-word,'" she said, noting that, at first, she tried to focus on her work, as it was busy. 

"The next thing that hit my ear was someone saying 'say I said n--ger,'" she said. "I was the only person of colour on the shift. I still don't know the context that they were using the N-word." 

Adan did her best to ignore the comment and focus on her work and at the end of the four-hour shift she reported the incident to her shift manager, who promised to look into the matter. 

She said the next day she got a call at home from the general manager.

Adan told him the story, he apologized for what had happened and she explained that she didn't want the staff who used the inappropriate language to lose their jobs, she just wanted them to know they shouldn't do it at work. 

A number of days went by without hearing back and Adan started getting less frequent shifts. Her unease over the situation grew into worry, so she started calling and emailing to ask about the investigation, but got no reply from the general manager. 

She said her worry got so bad she didn't go in for an upcoming shift because her boss wouldn't make himself available to talk about the incident. 

When he did get back to her, he wrote an email and apologized for the delay. 

"He said the young men had been given a warning and thank you for bringing this to our attention," she said, noting that she was pleased the young men would be able to keep their jobs.

By firing me what have they taught these young people?- Jamila Adan

A few days after the incident however, Adan had another problem with one of the young men. She said he approached her during a busy shift and told her very loudly in front of customers and staff that she had wrapped a burger incorrectly. 

She said other staff immediately asked the man to stop and not to be rude. 

Asked to sign mystery document

A few days later she learned she had a new general manager. The woman called Adan into her office and explained that McDonald's was letting her go. 

"She gave me a form to sign," Adan said. "The funny thing was she was trying to read the form to me and I said 'I want to read it' and she wouldn't let me." 

Adan said she refused to sign a document that she wasn't allowed to read.

"She got upset," she said. "I walked out." 

Insult to injury

In the days that followed Adan wrote emails to the general manager of the McDonald's franchise, and its owner, Giopalm Group Incorporated explaining that she felt she was fired because she reported on the job racism. 

According to emails from Giopalm Group Incorporated obtained by CBC News, Adan was told simply "we have minimum standards that need to be achieved and at this time you have not achieved them."

Under Ontario's Employment Standards Act, employers are not required to give employees a reason for their termination and only have to provide written notice when an employee has been in the job for over three months.

The law also states that employers can't terminate an employee for exercising their rights in the workplace, such asking questions about the law, or reporting racial harassment in the workplace. 

Adan said her former employer is sending the wrong message to the young men who used the N-word at work in the first place. 

"By firing me, what have they taught these young people? That it's okay to do what they did," she said. "That's the message they've sent to those young people."

Both McDonald's Canada and the franchise owner, London-based Giopalm Group Incorporated did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News. 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca