Toronto

This woman says she was fired by Freshii because of her hearing aids

After two short days of training, Kalia Douglas-Micallef says she was fired from Freshii because of her hearing aids, not for her ability to do the job. But Freshii says it was for a just cause.

Freshii says Kalia Douglas-Micallef was let go for just cause, but initially offered her another job

Kalia Douglas-Micallef says she was fired from a fast food restaurant because of her hearing aids. ( Kalia Douglas-Micallef)

After two short days of training, Kalia Douglas-Micallef says she was fired from Freshii because of her hearing aids, not for her ability to do her job. But Freshii says it was for just cause. 

On April 18, Douglas-Micallef went in for her first three-hour training session at one of the chain's Scarborough locations. She was hired as a "team member," she said, whose duties range from cashier to server to cook.

When she finished her second day on Friday, she says the manager told her that she wasn't cut out for the gig.

"He sat me down and he said, 'You're a nice girl, but your responses are delayed; you don't have it,'" Douglas-Micallef told CBC Toronto Monday in a phone interview.

Douglas-Micallef says during her training the manager was talking down to her, asking if she knew how to peel a carrot and kept repeating, "We're going to have a problem."

She believes she wasn't given a fair chance because of her two digital hearing aids that are visible when she puts her hair up, as is required by most restaurants.   

"I know when I'm being treated differently; I know when I'm being targeted," she said. 

Two days isn't enough to learn all the recipes." 

Has been let go before 

Douglas-Micallef says she's speaking out because this isn't the first time she's lost her job due to her disability. She says it has happened six times in the last year, and she believes it was due to her hearing impairment each time.

The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) says stories like Douglas-Micallef's are common. The organization runs programs to train both employees and employers to make sure both sides know what's needed to work together. 

"It's more so on the employers to understand what needs to be done so that everyone can participate in the economy," said Joshua Tucker, communications manager for the CHS. "Often it's mostly a communication barrier."

After the manager let her go, Douglas-Micallef says she sent out a tweet, demanding an apology. 

Her tweet even got the CEO's attention

What ensued was unexpected. Her tweet went viral and Freshii's CEO, Matthew Corrin, called her. By the end of the conversation, Douglas-Micallef says, he offered her a job at another location.

"I thought that was great," she said.

Not long after, Douglas-Micallef says she received an email from Corrin stating that he would be talking to media and asked her to send an updated tweet about the job offer adding, "I personally think it would be the smartest next step for both of us."

The pair exchanged several text messages. CBC News has seen the messages and the email Corrin sent.

Says she felt coerced into tweeting about job offer

Eventually, Douglas-Micallef agreed and posted a tweet. But a few hours later the 21-year-old says she took it down because she felt coerced to do so. Both sides now say they no longer want to work together.

CBC News has spoken to Freshii. The company says after talking to Douglas-Micallef and management at the Scarborough store, it has determined that Douglas-Micallef was fired with just cause. However, the company isn't willing to elaborate on what that reason is.

Human rights lawyer Saron Gebresellassi is currently reviewing Douglas-Micallef's case. Gebresellassi says about 40 per cent of the deaf population is unemployed because companies believe hiring them is too complicated.

"Some would need to work with an American Sign Language interpreter if they are interacting with customers," said Gebresellassi .

Although that is not the case for Douglas-Micallef, she does feel that people in her position could benefit from longer training. She also understands that the certain job environments may be too loud for her to properly work in.  

However, Douglas-Micallef believes that if Freshii was concerned with her hearing level, management should have spoken to her and/or put her in a position where she wasn't dealing with customers.

"If he wanted me to just wash the tables or do back of house work, I could have done that."