Leon's under fire over racism, “lynching” prank

by |

A former Leon’s employee has complained to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission about a series of racist incidents he experienced over two years working at the furniture store in Dartmouth.

Elsworth Bottomley, who is black, said he was called the N-word and also received a text message made denigrating comments about the intelligence of black people.

“Just referring to me as not being intelligent, very stupid because of my colour. Things like that,” he said.

A manager also once expressed concern about sending two black delivery drivers to a job because it could intimidate customers.

The final straw for Bottomley was when someone hung a black statue in the window of the store and he left the store after taking a picture.

"They had a statue of a black man hanging in the window with tape around its neck, hanging from the ceiling as a noose and tie as they would lynch back in slavery days,” he said.

The commission’s lawyer described it as a “lynching effigy” and said its eyes and mouth had been painted white in “blackface” style.

In a press release, Leon's said two employees were fired over the incident. They called the incident offensive and apologized to anyone who saw the effigy. Leon's said they've offered diversity and sensitivity training in recent weeks.

It is the second serious allegation of racial discrimination at the same Leon’s store. The human rights board of inquiry is investigating accusations Garnetta Cromwell, also black, who alleges a Leon’s manager referred to her employee evaluation as a lynching.

The board is considering whether Bottomley's evidence should be admissible in Cromwell’s case as relevant information. Cromwell said the two cases are related by how management dealt with each incident.

“Because of the way it made him feel as well as it made me feel. Because it was a very unhealthy environment for anybody to work in. It's almost like it's a psychological harassment," Cromwell told CBC.

However, the lawyer for Leon's Furniture Ltd. said Bottomley's evidence is irrelevant to Cromwell's human rights complaint because the timeframes of the allegations do not overlap.

How should HR have handled this? Do you include sensitivity training for your team?


  • Opinyun8ed on 2013-09-05 12:40:18 PM

    Disheartening to hear of this sort of behaviour in 2013.

  • CariMeAway on 2013-09-05 1:11:01 PM

    I can't believe this behaviour still exists! If Management is contributing to this behaviour that person needs to be fired. So do the perpretrators. Too bad it wasn't taken care of at the Leons level and needed to escalated up to the Human Rights Commission. As Opinyun8ed said, it's disheartening. I thought we were all better than this. Unfortunate that racism still exists in the workplace.

  • yeehaw on 2013-09-05 4:50:46 PM

    his absolutely disgusts me! Not the event that took place but the "victim" per say... What if the statue was blue would you still be crying... Seriously get over yourself your just looking for some fast cash and alittle bit of spotlight... The human rights board and the police have better things to deal with and beside the leons employees have been fired and all the other innocent employees had to sit through what im sure was a boring training class.... I hope you get nowhere with this!!!!

  • TruthHurts on 2013-09-05 7:56:54 PM

    Racism appears to be a fundamental unwritten corporate culture at Leon's. I have experienced it first hand as a prospective customer in a Toronto store back in 1998 and decided not to enter Leon's store in my life let alone make a purchase.

  • Adcon on 2013-09-06 6:46:53 AM

    Yeehaw. YOU disgust me! The "statue" was not blue though. What kind of a stupid argument is that? This was obviously a reference to lynching. Even an idiot like you could see that. So you're condoning overt racism in the workplace? Go peddle your bigotry somewhere else. By the way, it's PER SE not per say. Don't use a Latin phrase to make yourself sound less ignorant than you are, if you're going to spell it incorrectly. It just highlights your ignorance.

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions