Surrey grocery store worker awarded $16,000 for discrimination

Kyle Garneau endured gay slurs, harassment by owner's sons at Buy-Rite Foods.

A Surrey man has been awarded $16,000 for harassment and slurs he faced when he worked at a local grocery store.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Kyle Garneau was discriminated against by the owner and his sons at the Buy-Rite Foods that was formerly on Scott Road.

Garneau started working at Buy-Rite in March 2001, working at various times at two different locations. His human rights complaint was based on incidents that took place between May 2012 and August 2014 at the store at 9528 120 St. (Scott Rd.), owned by Shingara Sumal.

Garneau said when Sumal and his sons took ownership of the store in 2008, he told them about a birth defect/brain abnormality that affects him physically and mentally. He said Sumals two sons, Sutej and Inder, also perceived him to be gay.

Garneau said he was called “faggot,” “idiot,” “retard,” and other degrading names regularly. Often, the unprovoked comments were made in front of customers and made him feel “less than human,” he said.

He claimed he was also physically assaulted by Inder on at least two occasions, and that he took his bike and cell phone.

The Sumals did not respond to any of the accusations and chose not to participate in the tribunal hearing last month. The Buy-Rite location closed last year.

“I find Mr. 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,” wrote tribunal member Parnesh Sharma in the May 5 decision.

“It is apparent that the Sumals had little regard for Mr. Garneau and undoubtedly saw him as someone who could be mistreated with impunity. I find this treatment to have affected him profoundly and adversely.”

While Sharma said the two sons were largely to blame, the father, as owner and operator of the store, failed to ensure the workplace was safe and harassment free.

The tribunal awarded $15,000 to Garneau for damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect and $936 for lost wages.

He was also seeking compensation for the loss of his home ($174,000) and car ($6,000), which was denied.

 

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