Waiter claims dismissal for being 'rude' is race discrimination

A French waiter in Canada who had his contract of employment terminated for being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful” has filed a complaint of cultural discrimination against his employer

Guillaume Rey had been working in a Vancouver restaurant on Canada’s pacific coast from October 2016 until August 2017. According to his employer, Rey was dismissed as his behaviour continued to violate workplace policy, making specific reference to his “aggressive tone and nature”. A final decision on Rey’s future was made following an alleged aggressive confrontation between himself and a fellow waiter, which left Rey’s colleague in a state of emotional distress.

In response Rey has lodged a complaint with British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal claiming to be the victim of cultural discrimination on account of his French upbringing, which he admits “tends to be more direct and expressive”. The former waiter maintains he provided a high level of customer service and was fired as a result of his “direct, honest and professional personality” which had been developed during his time in the French hospitality industry.

The restaurant management agrees that Rey displayed a friendly and professional nature with customers adding that he was regularly given additional responsibilities as a result. However, they reiterate that it was Rey’s aggressive behaviour towards colleagues that was the crux of the issue, previously warning him that his “combative” behaviour was unacceptable in verbal and written performance reviews.

Whilst the restaurant made attempts to have Rey’s claim of discrimination dismissed, the Human Rights Tribunal has granted him the right to a hearing which still remains unscheduled at this time. Ahead of the hearing the tribunal has stated they expect an explanation of what aspects of Rey’s French heritage would result in behaviour that may be misinterpreted as a violation of acceptable workplace conduct.

Whilst this case has captured the imagination, organisations in the UK should note there is currently no designated protection offered to individuals who believe they have been discriminated against due to their culture. However, the Equality Act 2010 does protect employees against discrimination on the grounds of race and religion. If an employee can argue that they were treated less favourably on the grounds of cultural tendencies or practices that can be linked to race or religion, organisations could face a potentially costly tribunal claim.

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