Canadian Man Who Claimed He Was Passed Over for Promotion for Being Straight Has Federal Court Victory

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A Canadian man is one step closer to justice after a Federal Court justice ordered the Human Rights Commission to hear his complaint that his former employer discriminated against him for being heterosexual.

According to The National Post, Aaren Jagadeesh was told that he had “no hope” for a promotion at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto unless he joined a “group” of gay and bisexual men in management.

Jagadeesh, who worked as a financial services representative at CIBC says he was repeatedly turned down for promotions. At a one-on-one meeting with his manager on Sept. 15, 2015, Jagadeesh alleges that he was told that every male manager in the office was gay or bisexual, and, unless he joined this “group,” he could forget about ever getting a promotion.

The manager added, according to Jagadeesh, that this was why so many other young male employees with little or no qualifications were promoted and told him to “be smart and learn.”

Jagadeesh told the court that the incident negatively affected his “mental stress and self-dignity,” adding that the discrimination occurred after a work-related injury.

His position, according to court records, required Jagadeesh to call 60 to 70 customers each day to sell financial products, with each call requiring him to read four to six pages of product information and legal disclosures.

In order to meet performance standards, Jagadeesh was required to spend at least 96 percent of his entire shift on the phone with customers with no less than a 30-second break between each call. After several months of this schedule, Jagadeesh developed severe throat and vocal cord pain.

Jagadeesh’s doctor recommended modified duties, but he claims CIBC instead asked him to go on short-term disability. His employer then referred him to another doctor, who referred him to a throat specialist, who diagnosed him with muscle tension dysphonia and affirmed the original doctor’s recommendation of regular medical breaks to ensure a full recovery.

The discrimination, Jagadeesh says, followed shortly after his diagnosis. His pay, as well as bonuses and incentives, were cut. He said he was threatened with discipline if he took the medical breaks his doctors had ordered. Jagadeesh was turned down for 17 alternate jobs before he was ultimately fired in May of 2016.

His human rights complaint against CIBC, in which he alleged that young employees received promotions, awards, and favors because they were sexually exploited, followed soon after.

An investigator with the human rights commission was assigned to look into the complaint.

CIBC officials were interviewed by Human Rights Commission officials, but not the manager who allegedly made the offending statements to Jagadeesh, who was on an “extended leave of absence” at the time.

Last November, the commission dismissed both of Jagadeesh’s discrimination complaints.

Undeterred, Jagadeesh appealed to Canada’s federal court for a review of the commission’s decision, stating that the investigator had ignored evidence to avoid dealing with the sexual orientation complaint.

Jagadeesh believed “the encounter” with his manager about his heterosexuality “was the primary reason for his discrimination and explained why, despite his qualifications, experience, and excellent performance, he was denied workplace accommodation for his disability, and not offered any alternative position,” Justice Janet M. Fuhrer said her federal court ruling.

Justice Fuhrer ruled that the commission’s investigation and decisions were not “procedurally fair” to Jagadeesh and that the lack of thoroughness in the investigation rendered the Commission’s decision invalid. She ordered the Commission to reopen the complaint with a new investigator.

While this is not a massive victory, the fact that Justice Fuhrer deems heterosexual discrimination worthy of investigation is worthy of approval.

While further details on this case are sparse right now, this is definitely one to watch.

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