Comedian ordered to pay $15K for insulting lesbian
Andrew Weichel , ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, April 21, 2011 4:02PM PDT
The BC Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a Toronto comedian to pay $15,000 to a lesbian woman whom he insulted at a performance in 2007.
In a decision posted Wednesday, the tribunal ruled that Guy Earle and Zesty Food Services, Inc. had discriminated against Lorna Pardy on the basis of her sex and sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Code.
"Mr. Earle repeatedly and publicly subjected her to extreme homophobic and sexist comments, and physical aggression, when he was acting as the host of an open microphone comedy show," it reads.
The decision came after a four-day hearing involving testimony from 11 witnesses, including Pardy, employees of Zesty's Restuarant on Commercial Drive and some of Earle's fellow comedians.
Earle's lawyer Jim Millar said two applications for his client to testify via phone from Ontario were denied.
The ruling is alarming, Millar said, because it lumps comedic performers with service industry workers. The case was heard under Section 8 of the Human Rights Code, which covers discrimination in accommodation, service and facility.
"It would mean that a comedian is restricted to the same polite conversation that a service provider is – someone dishing out burgers or working in a public office," he said.
"There's no thought to protected speech or that [a comedian] might be pushing the envelope, or of the tradition of strong put-downs of hecklers."
The tribunal ruled that Pardy and her partner had not heckled or otherwise disrupted Earle's performance.
It found Pardy suffered humiliation that led to post-traumatic stress disorder, and that Earle had also taken Pardy's sunglasses and broken them.
Zesty's owner Salam Ismail was also ordered to pay Pardy $7,500 in compensation for the incident.
Millar boycotted the hearing, arguing that the tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case. He and Earle will be reviewing the decision with the B.C. Supreme Court.