The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has awarded over $173,000 in total to seven former employees of the Spruce Hill Resort and Spa in the B.C. Cariboo who claimed owner Kin Wa Chan discriminated against them because they’re Caucasian.
In a 73-page decision, tribunal chair Diana Juricevic found “that over a period of months, Mr. Chan repeatedly said that he wanted to replace Caucasian employees with ethnically Chinese employees to reduce labour costs.”
“I find that Mr. Chan said words to the effect: ‘Chinese workers are better and cheaper than white workers’ and ‘Chinese workers do not have to be paid holiday pay or overtime.'”
All the complainants either quit or were fired in August 2016.
Clare Fast received the highest award of just over $62,000. Fast worked at the resort for two decades as fitness and human resources manager, but the tribunal heard how she was terminated when Chan hired a person identified as Holly to take over her duties.
“The evidence is clear that Holly had no experience…” reads the decision. “She was, however, cheaper than Ms. Fast … and believed by Mr. Chan to work hard and not claim her statutory entitlements.”
The decision also found that Chan sexually discriminated against former resort general manager Melonie Eva, the lead complainant in the case.
The incident in question happened in April 2016 when the two travelled to Hong Kong to purchase materials for a renovation at the resort.
Upon arrival, the pair went out for dinner and then walked through a market that sold sex toys. Eva testified that when they went to their hotel, she was shocked to discover only a single room had been booked and that Chan expected them to share it.
An argument ensued and Eva got her own room. She was awarded $18,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, and another $24,481.25 for lost wages.
Credibility of testimony
The issue of credibility was highlighted as a major reason the decision found in favour of the employees.
Juricevic said Chan’s testimony was less credible than the complainants, and that he had a propensity to minimize facts that were detrimental to his interests.
She also found he made conflicting claims about the resort’s finances, testifying he didn’t have enough money to make payroll at one point in 2016, while also testifying he had more than $3 million set aside in his bank account to fund the renovations that were expected to cost $1.5 million.
Chan became owner of Spruce Hill Resort and Spa in 2015. According to the website, the resort is in the wilderness of 108 Mile Ranch, and features a hotel, ballroom, fitness centre, swimming pool, restaurants and chalets.
The complaint of an eighth former employee was dismissed.