Thursday, April 17, 2008

Your Human Right NOT to Wash your Hands Working at McDonald's?

In Canada right now there is a great deal of scrutiny being cast on our country's various human rights tribunals.

The tribunals were established to help ensure that complainants who felt they were being discriminated against due to their race or sex could settle their disputes. Unfortunately it seems that over time these tribunals have extended their reach and now try to arbitrate many matters that you might have thought would have been beyond their purvey.

In the case of Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard, they are trying to quash his freedom of speech. He is being investigated by the Alberta Human Rights Commission for his magazines publication of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad that led to riots in many Muslim countries. He's explicitly detailed his dealings with the courts and regardless of your political bent, it makes for fascinating and frightening reading. I'd start with this post of his and then work your way up from it (January 11th, 2008) in his archives.

So after that long tangent it brings me to Ezra's post from yesterday detailing the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruling that awarded a McDonald's employee almost $50,000 for apparently violating her "human right" to not wash her hands while she worked there. Here's a brief clip from Ezra's blog,

"Datt wouldn't wash her hands. She just wouldn't -- she said she couldn't. So her employment was terminated. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered that McDonald's pay her not only $23,000 for "lost income", but an additional $25,000 for her "dignity and self-respect". You see, in B.C. a food preparation worker's self-respect trumps a company's commitment to cleanliness. They violated her "human rights".

The $50,000+ penalty -- plus several years of legal fees and medical and rehab experts -- isn't the worst of it. Inventing a "human right" for a worker to go to the bathroom and then to handle meat without washing her hands in between, as an excuse for that $50,000 shakedown isn't the worst of it either.

The worst of it is that the BCHRT has ordered that McDonald's, in paragraph 298 of the decision, to "cease the discriminatory conduct or any similar conduct and refrain from committing the same or similar contravention.
While I'm not trying to diminish the medical condition of the complainant, I would think that certainly a restaurant has the right to fire someone who is unable to wash their hands especially given that it's actually the law as Ezra points out,
"In B.C., McDonald's hygiene policy isn't just a matter of corporate pride. It's a matter of the law -- both the Health Act and the Food Premises Regulations. And then there's B.C.'s Food Protection Guidelines issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control."
We live in a strange, strange world.

Bottom line on the matter?

Maybe it'd be best to avoid the McDonald's located on South West Marine Drive in Vancouver.

For a brief overview of this whole issue (human rights tribunals, not the McDonald's case), here's national treasure Rick Mercer's rant on the matter: