The Canadian restaurant industry is rife with discrimination, a warren of hostile forces aligned against … men?
At least that’s the view of Jean-Alexandre De Bousquet. A Toronto human rights lawyer, Mr. De Bousquet believes men, especially older men, face “systemic discrimination” in the Canadian food industry.
“Just go to any restaurant or bar downtown”—Mr. De Bousquet specifically cited The Keg and Wild Wings —“and you’re likely to encounter an all female staff,” he said, “except for the males that work in the kitchen.”
But Mr. De Bousquet does not intend to let this state of affairs stand. He recently challenged the allegedly anti-male culture of Canadian restaurants in a case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. And he won, sort of.
In 2013, Mr. De Bousquet’s client, Adnan Cenanovic, responded to an online ad for “female only” servers at a Bourbon St. Grill in a Richmond Hill food court. He didn’t get the job and, two days after applying, he hired Mr. De Bousquet to represent him in a sexual discrimination complaint.
The ruling in that case, released just before Christmas, reads like a polite, legalese wish for a pox on all sides of the dispute. The restaurant’s owner, Weiwei “Tony” Zhu, at first admitted to trying to hire only women for the open job, then later tried to recant, a switcheroo the adjudicator, Jennifer Scott, didn’t buy.
The respondents violated the applicant’s rights when they posted a job ad that stated he should not apply because he is a man
Mr. Cenanovic, meanwhile, didn’t act like someone who sincerely wanted a $10-an-hour food court job, Ms. Scott found. For one thing, he’d never worked in fast food before, despite having more than a decade of experience in restaurants and bars.
Mr. De Bousquet, though, denied that allegation. Not only did his client desperately want the job when he applied for it, he said, he still would have taken a job, any job after filing the case.
“In April, we contacted the defendant and we said that my client would accept a job as a settlement, and if the respondent didn’t want to hire him, he could arrange to give him a job through one of his connections,” he said.
Mr. De Bousquet said Mr. Zhu’s lawyer turned that offer down. (Wen Wu, the lawyer, declined to comment.)
In the end, Ms. Scott found that Mr. Cenanovic could not prove he’d lost out on the job because of his gender. But, because the job ad itself was discriminatory, he was nonetheless a victim. “The respondents violated the applicant’s rights when they posted a job ad that stated he should not apply because he is a man,” Ms. Scott wrote.
Mr. De Bousquet now wants Mr. Zhu to pay his client $25,000 in restitution. He said that just because Mr. Cenanovic didn’t suffer any actual monetary damage, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a real victim. He compared his client to a black person denied service because of his or her race.
“A person who walks into a hair salon and is told ‘Sorry, we won’t serve you because you’re black, that person can walk to the next hair salon and get a hair cut for the same price,” he said. “There’s no money lost there, but there’s still an inherent harm to being treated differently because of characteristics we have no control of.”
Both sides in the dispute have until Jan. 9 to submit recommendations for redress in the case. In addition to the cash, Mr. De Bousquet is hoping the tribunal will order Mr. Zhu to post a copy of the Ontario Human Rights Code in his restaurant.