Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montréal, QC, CANADA, October 16, 2008

---A Black security officer who was fired by the Montreal Transity Authority (MTA) for discriminatory reasons has finally won his case at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, after waiting five years for the outcome of his complaint.

This could have been the first decision on racial profiling in employment; however, the Commission did not rule it as such. Nonetheless, it can have a significant impact on jobs requiring police checks on good character and criminal records.

In 2003, M.K. was hired by the MTA as a security officer. Having gone through all hiring steps, including a check on criminal records, M.K. begun work in May. After almost 30 days, he was abruptly fired, two days before the final confirmation of his
job. The reason: bad references from one of his previous employers. Due to an incident involving one of its employees, the MTA could not take a chance with M.K. It also handed him a letter stating that it was impossible to confirm, “beyond all reasonable doubt”, that M.K. met the job pre-requisites.

Shocked by the news, M.K. conducted his own inquiry and learned that several Black and Latino candidates had previously been rejected for the position. He also found that before his hiring, one Black security officer was charged with criminal offenses
and fired, which created negative perceptions of Black males within the MTA. When M.K. obtained access to his employee file later in the year, he found a report written by the private security firm contracted to carry out the background check prior to his hiring, which stated that M.K.'s previous supervisor, Ms. “Jeanne Redneck”, did not wish to speak about this ex-employee. However, Jeanne “Redneck” does not exist; his real supervisor told him that she was never contacted by the MTA for his references.

Based on this factual evidence, CRARR filed a race discrimination complaint with the human rights commission, claiming that M.K. was fired and penalized because the
other accused employee, with whom M.K. had no ties, was also Black.

During the Commission's investigation, a brief note from the Montreal Police Department (MPD) was discovered, containing information which it gave to the MTA after a quick background check on M.K. after his hiring. According to the police, M.K. “frequented criminalized persons.” On this basis, the MTA fired him, without obtaining further clarification from the MPD or from M.K. himself. Yet, the “criminalized persons” were none other than M.K.'s own cousin who had frequent run-ins with the law.

In a decision dated September 26, 2008, the Commission concluded that M.K. has been a victim of race discrimination in hiring, since “race, color and civil status were taken into consideration” in the MTA decision. It requires from the MTA $27,000 in material damages, $10,000 in moral damages and $5,000 in punitive damages. No non “I have been victim of racial profiling in employment,” said M.K. “Because I'm monetary remedies to end or prevent discriminatory practices.

“I have been a victim of racial profiling in employment,” said M.K. “Because I'm Black and because another Black employee committed some crimes, the MTA subjected me to standards that are totally arbitrary, heightened and discriminatory.
Furthermore, the Montreal Police's method of stigmatizing me for having “frequent criminalized persons” is very abusive,” he added.

Before his job at the MTA, M.K. worked as a correctional officer (with a peace officer status) and after his firing, as a police officer in a small town.

According to CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi who personally worked on the case since 2003, this would be the first case to address the MPD's criterion of “frequenting (or being associated with) criminalized persons.”

“With this decision, the Commission has created an important precedent on the selection of persons for positions requiring not only a background check for criminal record but also for good character. It is now telling employers to use police
information with more care and fairness,” he said.

“The MPD's present criterion risks exposing a disproportionately high number of Black individuals to discrimination in employment, given the high rate of Black people in the adult and juvenile justice systems. Under this criterion, all members of a
direct or extended family can be considered as “frequenting criminalized persons” if their brother, their distant cousin or their uncle has a criminal record,” he concluded.

The Commission gave the MTA till October 24, 2008 to comply with its decision, failing which it will bring the case to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

In 2003, CRARR filed three other complaints on behalf of Black individuals who were refused or fired by the Security Service of the MTA during the same period. One complaint was abandoned due to the complainant’s departure from Quebec; another rejected due to lack of evidence and the third, the object of a settlement.