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Human Rights Tribunal fines farm $23,500 for calling migrant workers ‘monkeys’




Nicholas Keung


The Star.com


The Toronto Star

Buong Teksto

An Ontario farm has been found guilty of referring to employees as “monkeys” and firing a St. Lucian migrant worker who stood up against the name-calling.
Double Diamond Acres Ltd., a tomato farm in Kingsville, has been ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to compensate complainant Adrian Monrose a total of $23,500 in damages for owed wages, reprisal and loss of dignity.
“I find that a factor in the decision to terminate the applicant’s employment was that he complained about the monkey comment,” adjudicator David Muir wrote in a decision released last week.
“I also find that the conclusion that the applicant was prone to violence was baseless and that his termination was more likely in response to his having raised concerns about being referred to as a monkey.”
Monrose, 38, first arrived at Double Diamond in 2008 through the federal government’s seasonal agricultural worker program and was recalled the following year to work at the same farm.
Monrose claimed he and his co-workers were referred to by both farm owner Benji Mastronardi, and his supervisor, Jeffery Carreiro, as monkeys on May 20 and 21, 2009.
Monrose alleged that Mastronardi shouted at them, “You’re like monkeys on a branch” and in a separate incident, Carreiro said, “That’s why Benji calls you guys monkeys.”
Monrose said he later complained to Mastronardi about the racial taunts, which he claimed led to his dismissal on June 8. He was repatriated to St. Lucia the next day, 12 weeks before his contract was supposed to end.
The farm owner and his supervisor, however, denied they ever called the workers monkeys and argued that Monrose was terminated because “he was prone to violence.”
They claimed Monrose was extremely agitated and gave “loud voice to a litany of complaints” about Double Diamond, including that they had still not paid the workers 25 per cent of their wages from the 2008 season.
They further alleged that Monrose pushed Carreiro “with force sufficient to almost knock him down” during one confrontation.
When reached Sunday, the company said it had no comment to the accusations or tribunal decision.
In ruling in the complainant’s favour, the tribunal said it had “significant credibility issues” with the respondents’ version of events, pointing out that Monrose did admit to complaining about the owed wages, but said it happened in early 2009 and had been resolved by late February.
“I find myself unable to accept the veracity of Mastronardi’s evidence on these issues,” Muir wrote.
Monrose, who now works on a farm in Windsor, said it takes courage for migrant workers to fight for respect and dignity, because in speaking out against their employers they risk losing their jobs and being sent home.
“What happened to me shouldn’t have happened. It hurts. I don’t want anyone to experience what I went through. Many of us have wives and children to take care of. We are the breadwinners,” said Monrose, a father of three girls.
“But I can’t let people call me that kind of name. We are all the same and should be treated with respect.”
In addition to the monetary damages, Double Diamond is required to hire an expert to develop a comprehensive human rights and anti-discrimination policy within 120 days. It must also ensure all of its supervisory staff complete an online human rights course.



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