Human rights hearing proceeds: Waiter argues his French culture behind firing

Guillaume Rey began working for Cara Operations at one of its Milestones restaurants in Vancouver

A waiter in B.C. who is disputing his firing argues his French culture led to his dismissal.

Guillaume Rey appealed to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, which has rejected the restaurant’s request that the matter be thrown out, instead sending the case to a full hearing.

The tribunal says Rey should have the chance to explain why his French culture could be misinterpreted as violating the restaurant’s workplace respect policy.

Rey began working for Cara Operations at one of its Milestones restaurants in Vancouver in 2015, and performance appraisals show he “received great feedback from guests,” but was also warned about a tendency to be “combative and aggressive.”

The tribunal ruling says management approached Rey several times about his attitude toward co-workers, but Rey alleges senior staff told him more than once that his culture might cause other staff to view him as aggressive — comments that were denied by the general manager of Milestones.

Rey was fired in August 2017 after he admonished a more junior waiter in a manner the restaurant manager describes as “aggressive,” but which Rey says was “very professional.”

In a ruling dated March 7, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau says both sides agree Rey’s behaviour at work led to his termination, but almost everything else is in dispute.

The restaurant says Rey’s ”aggressive tone and nature with others” violated

Milestones’ respect-in-the-workplace policy.

Rey says he was fired for his “direct, honest and professional personality,” and “high standards learned in the French hospitality industry.”

Details provided by both sides are too sparse to determine what behaviour Rey engaged in or “whether the restaurant’s management and staff unfairly judged (his) behaviour through the lens of a stereotype,” Cousineau writes.

He mentions comments allegedly made by the general manager that could prove Rey’s culture was held against him, but also says Milestones is entitled to enforce a workplace respect policy and terminate anyone who falls below set standards.

“Mr. Rey will have to explain what it is about his French heritage that would result in behaviour that people misinterpret as a violation of workplace standards of acceptable conduct,” Cousineau says.

He has ordered a full hearing, but adds: “This decision is no prediction of its likelihood of success.”

The Canadian Press

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