From the Toronto Star.
Fired white woman wins wrongful dismissal suit
Oct 18, 2007 04:49 PM
THE CANADIAN PRESS
A white woman fired from the predominantly black women’s shelter where she worked because of alleged racist attitudes won more than $28,000 in severance pay today for wrongful dismissal.
In a strongly worded judgment, Ontario Superior Court Justice Gloria Klowak found no evidence of racist conduct, denounced the method of firing, and warned against allowing subjective feelings of hurt to colour good employment practices.
The case, believed to be one of the first litigations involving dismissal for anti-black racist conduct, involved Karen Butler-Lynch, 49, who was fired Sept. 1, 2006, from a busy, publicly funded women’s shelter in Toronto called Dr. Roz’s Healing Place.
Butler-Lynch, who is white, had worked there for more than six years. Almost all employees and clients were people of colour.
Problems with her superiors arose out of issues such as staff schedules and the treatment of shelter residents, and Butler-Lynch found herself accused of insubordination.
During a mediation session last August, the shelter’s executive director, Roz Roach, apparently said Butler-Lynch could never know what it was like to be a black woman.
Butler-Lynch allegedly responded by saying it was ``challenging” to be a white woman working almost exclusively with people of colour.
``I’m a white woman with blue eyes and freckles, and I used to have blond hair,” Butler-Lynch allegedly said. “Do you know what a challenge it is to work with all these women of colour?”
Roach and the others concluded the comments were oppressive and evidence of a deep-seated racist attitude.
As a result, the shelter fired Butler-Lynch. The termination notice was sent to an address she hadn’t lived at for three years, then given to her at work by a taxi driver on the Friday of the Labour Day long weekend.