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Bullied Surrey grocery store employee wins $16,000 in discrimination case

Buy-Rite Foods location in Surrey, B.C.

A Vancouver-area man has been awarded almost $16,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for a series of threats and slurs he endured from his boss' sons.

The tribunal ruled that Kyle Garneau was discriminated against while working at Buy-Rite Foods in Surrey, B.C., where the owner's sons repeatedly physically and verbally harassed him.

Garneau is gay, and has a brain abnormality that affects him physically and mentally, including his appearance and weight.

In a decision released earlier this month, tribunal member Parnesh Sharma wrote that owner Shingara Sumal failed to ensure his store was a safe work environment, free from harassment.

"I find (Garneau) was mistreated and bullied primarily because he was seen as weak and vulnerable, but that his physical and mental disabilities and perceived sexual orientation were significant factors in the treatment he experienced,'' Sharma wrote.

Garneau testified that the slurs made him powerless and less than human.

He repeatedly asked Sumal and his sons to stop, saying their words were hurtful and offensive, but the behaviour continued.

"It is apparent that the Sumals had little regard for (Garneau) and undoubtedly saw him as someone who could be mistreated with impunity,'' Sharma wrote.

Garneau asked the tribunal for nearly $200,000, saying he lost his house and car and had financial difficulties after his hours at the store were greatly reduced. The tribunal instead awarded $15,000 for damages and $936 for lost wages.

Sumal and his sons were also ordered to stop their discriminatory behaviour, and to not repeat it in the future. The grocery store has since closed.

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