Axed Dairy Queen worker gets $36,000 for discrimination
Published Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:28AM PST
A disabled woman who says she was called a "one-armed bandit" by co-workers and unfairly fired from her job at Dairy Queen has been awarded $36,000 by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
Linda Vernon, who is missing an arm, was fired from the fast-food joint in 100 Mile House in May 2009 after working nights there for eight months.
"She struck me as a strong and resourceful woman who was devastated by the loss of her job," tribunal member Heather McNaughton wrote in a decision Monday.
In her human rights complaint, Vernon said that her problems began when the location's former manager Kelly Brown returned to work after a pregnancy leave.
Vernon's son Chad, who worked in the same restaurant, said that he overheard Brown making fun of his mother and calling her a "one-armed bandit."
Brown worked the day shift, and Vernon told the tribunal that the other woman took pains to make her job more difficult when she arrived at night, leaving sinks of greasy cold water full of dishes to wash and other messes to clean up.
Vernon said Brown also tried to create work that was especially difficult for someone with only one arm, including closing the heavy lids for the garbage bins outside the store when Vernon was making multiple trips to dispose of trash.
Store supervisor Craig Slater said that he fired Vernon after receiving complaints from another employee -- Brown's friend -- that Vernon was taking long breaks, stealing uncooked chicken breasts and giving free food to younger staff members.
Brown testified that there were "constant" complaints about Vernon taking long breaks, not washing her hands and letting her long hair hang loose on the job.
But McNaughton wrote that she found "significant" problems with the testimony of Brown and Slater.
She wrote that Brown and her friend, "engaged in a concerted effort to have Ms. Vernon resign from the Dairy Queen. I find that they made her job more difficult by creating work that they knew she would find challenging."
Despite going door-to-door in town, Vernon has been unable to find work since she was fired, and has had to turn to the food bank and her children for support.
"She said that she has shed many tears and spent many sleepless nights since she was fired," McNaughton wrote.
"She was embarrassed and felt that she needed to stand up for herself. The impact was exacerbated because of the small community in which Ms. Vernon resides."
She ordered Howatt Enterprises, the company that operates the Dairy Queen, along with Brown and Slater, to pay Vernon $21,060 for 18 months of lost wages and $15,000 for injury to dignity.
A manager at the Dairy Queen declined to comment, but said that Brown is no longer working at the restaurant.