Overweight man awarded $2,000 for job discrimination
Published Thursday, October 21, 2010 1:17PM PDT
An overweight B.C. man has been awarded $2,000 in damages for "injury to his dignity, feelings and self-respect" after he lost out on work as a construction flagger because he was too fat.
Kevin Johnson, now 21, filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against D & B Traffic Control and his supervisor Diane Steenson after she told him that he was not being called to work because his weight limited how long he could stand.
Johnson began working for D & B in 2008, when he was 19. He said that he had trouble with his weight when he was hired -- a problem that has only gotten worse since then.
In the spring of last year -- his second season on call with the traffic company -- Johnson's roommate was called to work on a job located within three blocks of his home.
No one called Johnson to ask him to work.
When he called Steenson to ask why he had not been offered a shift, she told him that because of his weight, "it would be too hard on him to work a long shift as he could not stand that long," according to tribunal documents.
That statement had a lasting impact on Johnson, tribunal member Enid Marion wrote in her decision, issued Wednesday.
"Given the context in which the comment was made, it was serious, insensitive and understandably hurt his feelings."
During the hearing, Steenson said that after she had made that comment, she apologized and changed her story, telling Johnson that the contractor behind the construction job did not want him working for them.
"She said she was trying to protect him as she is a compassionate person," Marion wrote.
Despite that attempt to protect his feelings, Johnson said in his hearing that he didn't believe Steenson and was deeply hurt.
"He described feeling depressed and not wanting to leave his home for a lengthy period of time," Marion wrote.
The tribunal found that while Johnson didn't provide evidence that he was heavy enough to be technically considered disabled, his bosses at D & B perceived his weight as a disability.
"[Steenson's] perception of Mr. Johnson's disability was at least a factor in the decision not to offer him work," Marion wrote.
She went on to say that Steenson didn't intend to discriminate against Johnson, but "it is the effect of her conduct, and not her intention, that is relevant to the finding of discrimination."
Marion ruled that although Steenson apologized immediately, her comment damaged Johnson's self esteem, and ordered D & B to compensate him.