BC concrete company blamed for racial slurs directed at employees by employees

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A Metro Vancouver concrete company and one of its workers have been ordered to pay damages to a former employee who was subjected to racial slurs on the job.

A carpenter who identifies as Black and Mayan was named twice, according to the Spanish words for monkeys and apes, while working at Coquitlam, BC-based Whitewater Concrete. a recent decision by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

“Calling a black man an ape or an ape exploits and reinforces the stereotype that black people are subhuman and unequal to others,” tribunal member Amber Prince wrote in the decision.

“This stereotype is particularly pernicious because it has been exploited by Europeans for centuries to justify colonial rule over people who are considered ‘primitive’, less ‘civilized’, and therefore less human.”

Prince wrote that the company and Whitewater employee Nicolas Pacheco are jointly liable for $2,500 plus interest for violating the dignity, feelings and personal respect of Raul Martinez Johnson.

However, the court rejected Martinez Johnson’s claim that the company had failed to address his harassment complaints and forced him to quit his job.

Prince noted that Whitewater took reasonable steps to investigate and address Martinez Johnson’s complaints about Pacheco and other employees when they were reported.

CBC has reached out to Whitewater for comment.

“Embarrassed, served and disrespected”

According to the sentence, Pacheco admitted that in 2019 he called Martinez Johnson “a few times” at work, “mono,” the Spanish word for monkey, and “simio,” the Spanish word for monkey. Other employees reminded him to “pronounce” those words as a good thing.

Martinez Johnson told the tribunal that he “was embarrassed to be ridiculed and disrespected when he was called a monkey and a monkey,” the decision said.

Pacheco testified that the words were not meant to have racist connotations, and instead meant to imply that Martinez Johnson was “careless.”

But Prince said she has received no evidence to suggest that “mono” and “simio” are shorthand for “carefree” in Spanish, and the Spanish interpreter who assisted at the hearings said those words generally do not have understood in this way.

Prince also pointed out that during a WorkSafeBC investigation, Pacheco had a different explanation, saying he only used those words when he was “joking” at work.

Although Prince noted that Martinez Johnson was twice subjected to insults that amounted to discrimination based on race, color and national origin, she denied several other allegations of racism involving other Whitewater employees.

Prince noted that Martinez Johnson had made some of his own “offensive comments” toward Pacheco and other employees, but none of them were racial slurs.


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