Major Canadian retailer caught up in racism row

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“Employers will generally be vicariously liable for actions of their employees when those employees are acting within the normal scope of their duties,” said Andres Barker. “As a result employees become a de facto extension of the business, and people may make inferences about the corporate culture based on incidents like this one. “

“[Vicarious liability] operates in much the same way as a motor vehicle accident claim,” explains Richard Johnson. “If a car accident occurs and someone is injured, that person usually sues both the driver and the owner of the car (if they are not the same person).  The owner of the car can be legally responsible for the actions of those he lets drive his car. 

“This concept is the same in the employment context, and many employers are unaware of the minefield of potential legal liability they could face from not having appropriate policies in place, not training their staff on those policies and protocols, and in not disciplining employees appropriately when policies or protocols are violated.”

Workplace implementation

“Employers should ensure they have clear policies in place to prevent discrimination, especially when sensitive issues are involved such as monitoring suspicious customers,” stresses Barker. “This is a particular area where people’s ingrained attitudes and biases may interfere with their judgment, and employers should ensure employees are well apprised on when it is appropriate to monitor a customer, what they may demand of a customer they suspect of shoplifting, and when they may refuse service and direct someone to leave the premises.”

Heather Hettiarachichi said there are four essential steps employers should take to protect themselves from similar situations:

  • Educate staff on what racial profiling means
  • Implement and enforce clearly defined policies that prohibit racial profiling
  • Provide staff with training on avoiding the pitfalls of racial profiling; and
  • Take prompt action if you note employees showing a tendency to engage in racial profiling
 
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  • Patricia on 2015-10-09 6:49:47 PM

    I'm glad to see this issue come to light. Many want to put their head in the sand and believe racism and discrimination doesn't exist in Canada, but it does. I'm all for policies, but you can have all the policies in the world and it won't change people's ignorant beliefs and biases. Education and positive representations of racial groups are key to transformation.

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