In recent media releases, Tim Hortons has defended its use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in its franchises, and affirmed a commitment to “create a positive, fair work environment for all of [its] team members”.
Why, then, is it fighting so hard in a BC human rights case to argue that it has no role in the working conditions of the temporary foreign workers that serve its timbits?
In response to a complaint by four former temporary foreign workers that they had been the subject of racist slurs and discriminatory working conditions while working at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Dawson Creek, Tim Hortons has taken the position that the head company had “no control over, or any involvement in, the employment relationships between its franchisees and their employees”. Therefore, it argues, it should not be held responsible for discrimination against temporary foreign workers in its franchises. It has asked the BC Human Rights Tribunal to dismiss the workers’ complaints of discrimination against Tim Hortons without a hearing.
The workers are all now living in Mexico, having been sent home by or fled from their former employer because of the discriminatory treatment they say they suffered. Tim Hortons has been ordered by the BC Human Rights Tribunal to disclose its corporate Operating Manual which could confirm its role in the workers’ employment at the franchises in question – a role it strongly denies. Tim Hortons challenged the Tribunal’s order and, as a result, the wrangling over these documents has added nearly a year of delay in the workers’ attempt to have their complaint heard and decided.
Tim Hortons needs to reconcile the admirable stance it takes in its public statements - that it will not tolerate abuse of temporary foreign workers – with its approach to those workers who do complain of mistreatment. For those workers who complain of discrimination, employment standards violations or other abuses, Tim Hortons has made a public commitment to take action to address those abuses. Time to give those promises some meaning.
A copy of the human rights complaint can be found here.
Community Legal Assistance Society