The BC Human Rights Tribunal has rejected an attempt by Tim Horton’s to have a human rights complaint against the coffee giant dismissed at an early stage.
Four temporary workers from Mexico filed a complaint in 2012, saying they experienced discrimination in the workplace while working at two Tim Horton’s locations in Dawson Creek.
The workers allege that as employees for Tim Horton’s, they were given less favourable schedules and duties than locally-hired workers, and faced derogatory/racist comments while being coerced to live in substandard housing.
In this case, the franchise owner was also their landlord.
“We are encouraged by the Tribunal’s decision, and are eager to move forward with the merits of the complaint,” said, Erin Pritchard, one of the lawyers representing the workers. “Tim Hortons must take responsibility for the way workers are treated in its restaurants.”
The Tribunal rejected Tim Horton’s argument that the workers’ relationship was only with the franchise owner and not the company.
The workers countered that by promoting the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the company contributed to the discrimination they experienced, all while failing to use business practices that would protect the workers from being mistreated.
The workers also made the case that, since the company exercises such strong control over all of its franchise locations, Tim Horton’s should be considered to be their employer as well, and not just the individual franchisee.
The Tribunal has not yet made a decision on the merit of the complaint, but did say that Tim Horton’s could be found responsible for the discrimination in employment if the workers’ allegations are proven at hearing.
This case follows another decision was made on November 5th involving a Tim Horton’s location in Fernie.
That case concerns the treatment of Filipino temporary foreign workers at this particular Tim Horton’s.
BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Community Legal Assistance Society are representing the workers in their complaint against both the individual franchise owner and the franchisor, Tim Hortons.