Vegreville, Alberta -- November 9, 2017 -- A gay First Nations man who was turned down for a job at an autobody shop east of Edmonton has been awarded $56,000 in damages and lost wages by a human rights tribunal.
In a written decision last month, the Alberta Human Rights Commission stated that Rambo Landry applied for an administrative job at Vegreville Autobody Ltd. about a year after he and his husband, an RCMP staff sergeant, moved to the area from the Northwest Territories.
Myron Hayduk—one of the shop's co-owners and Vegreville's mayor at the time—conducted a 75-minute interview with Landry, the tribunal heard.
In her decision, tribunal chair Karen Scott wrote that the interview started off with a routine question about why Landry wanted to work there, but then took a turn when he was asked what he would do if a customer had an issue with his sexual orientation.
Landry testified that Hayduk spent an estimated 80 percent of his job interview discussing religion, marriage, race, sexual orientation and other matters unrelated to the job, according to a story published by cbc.ca. Landry testified that Hayduk told him he did not believe in political correctness, that straight people are bullied into accepting gay people and the tide would turn against them. Landry, who is Dene, also described Hayduk telling him "natives" are in the minority in Vegreville and that he was also queried on his belief in God.
In his testimony, Hayduk admitted saying he does not agree with political correctness, but denied making the anti-gay remarks Landry described. He said the comments about Indigenous people were taken out of context and could not say for sure whether he asked Landry about religion. Hayduk told the tribunal that he recalled asking how Landry would deal with an irate customer, but did not recall any mention of him being gay.
"I find that Mr. Landry's race, sexual orientation and marital status were factors in the respondent's decision not to hire him," wrote Scott in her decision. "Accordingly, I award the complainant $20,000 as general damages for loss of dignity as well as $36,000 for lost wages, plus interest."
Hayduk said he has been advised by his lawyers not to comment on the decision. Landry has not responded to an interview request at the time of this publication.
"Mr. Landry describes being quite upset by these questions, stating that he felt as if he was being 'put in a box that was getting smaller and smaller," wrote Scott.
The job went to a woman Hayduk said was more qualified. He said he did not recall discussing race, religion or sexual orientation with her in the interview.
"He stated simply: 'She looks whiter than me,"' Scott wrote, adding that Hayduk testified he is of Ukrainian heritage.
According to the cbc.ca story, Landry testified that following the interview, he became depressed, anxious and withdrawn and that it put a strain on his marriage. He said he and his husband went 45 minutes out of their way to run errands because they were not comfortable in Vegreville.
Collision Repair magazine will be featuring an article on sexual minorities in the repair industry in one of our upcoming issues. Stay tuned!