Leon's employee had poor attendance, manager says

A Nova Scotia human rights hearing heard about the spotty attendance record of woman who claims a racially charged atmosphere forced her to quit her job.

Nova Scotia human rights hearing to determine if Garnetta Cromwell was the victim of racism

A Nova Scotia human rights hearing heard about the spotty attendance record of woman who claims a racially charged atmosphere forced her to quit her job.

Lawyers for Leon's furniture store in Dartmouth, N.S. pushed back during Wednesday night’s hearing, challenging the credibility of Garnetta Cromwell.

Cromwell worked at the Leon's store in Dartmouth from 2004 to 2008. Cromwell, who is black, claims she suffered racial discrimination at work and quit as a result.

Tammy Bishop, manager of Leon’s, spoke at the hearing Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. The company's lawyer turned to Bishop to help discredit the work history of Cromwell.

For several hours, the human rights hearing heard about how Cromwell would not come to work for weeks at a time, resulting in a sluggish sales record. Because of that, Cromwell had her three month probation extended to nine months.

"They're just trying to say that my work wasn't a priority to me, and that's not true at all," she said.

Cromwell said that she was treated differently by Leon's and some of its employees. She said they used a stern application of the company’s policies because she is black.

On Thursday, Bishop clarified that Cromwell took approved sick days and bereavement leave because of deaths in her family.

Cromwell's performance reviews 'good'

Lawyer Lisa Teryl, representing the N.S. Human Rights Commission, said Cromwell's performance reviews rated her as "good" and "satisfactory" in all areas, including punctuality.

"Garnetta Cromwell has given earlier evidence that she felt unfairly treated by her supervisor. So one of the questions that was put to this witness is the legitimate expectations of an employee in terms of understanding what their discipline would likely be if there's an infraction, and whether there's a consistency and follow through on that."

Teryl also asked Bishop if she knew about a romantic relationship between Cromwell and area manager Dave McLeod.

Cromwell had testified she told Bishop about it.

But on Thursday, Bishop said that conversation never happened.

"I think it's important to explore all the possible motivations," said Teryl. "If there's a perception that a manager is responding in an unfair way, is there something that might be motivating a manager to feel like they might need to be more strict?"

Teryl said these issues could play a role in the final decision of the Board of Inquiry chair — that's because, in combination with documented incidents of racially insensitive treatment, they could lead an employee to a reasonable belief they were being discriminated against because of their race.

The inquiry has taken days longer than expected. Lawyers for Leon’s are expected to present its defence Friday and perhaps into Saturday.

The hearing is expected to conclude by the end of September.