A Canadian tribunal has awarded a transgender, non-binary server $30,000 and ruled refusal to use someone’s preferred pronouns as a human rights offence, during the settlement of an employment dispute.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of Jessie Nelson, 32, a former restaurant server who goes by ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns.
During their time working at the Buono Osteria restaurant in British Columbia, Jesse was misgendered by the bar manager and fired after four weeks.
The restaurant’s bar manager, Brian Gobelle, “persistently referred to Jessie Nelson with she/her pronouns and with gendered nicknames like ‘sweetheart’, ‘honey’, and ‘pinky’”, according to Devyn Cousineau, member of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.
When Nelson asked Gobelle to stop, he refused and a second conversation between them about the issue became tense. Nelson was then fired by the restaurant owner, Ryan Kingsberry, four days later.
Nelson took their case to the human rights tribunal, alleging that “Gobelle’s conduct towards them, and the employer’s response, amounts to discrimination in employment based on their gender identity and expression”, in violation of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code.
The tribunal agreed that the deliberate, constant misgendering of Nelson was a violation of their human rights. They ordered the restaurant’s management to pay Nelson $30,000 in damages as well as “implement a pronoun policy and mandatory training for all staff and managers about diversity, equity and inclusion”.
Testifying in their hearing, Nelson said: “I am here today in bringing this forward because it is important for me, as a trans person, to have my existence respected. I’m a human being, with a beating heart and a desire to be seen and valued and heard in the world.
They continued: “I’m also here for every other current and future trans or queer person working in a service or customer‐facing setting so that hopefully this doesn’t happen anymore. Because it’s a lot. It’s very draining. And we deserve to live, and have joy, and be respected for who we are.”