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The Canadian Human Rights Commission was ordered to properly assess a discrimination complaint by a former employee of a major bank who claims his boss told him he had “no hope” for promotion unless he joined their “group” of gay and bisexual men.

He was told only males who were gay or bisexual were promoted in the office, he claims.

The commission had improperly dismissed the employee’s discrimination complaint based on sexual orientation, in this case for being straight, the Federal Court of Canada ruled.

A new investigation and reassessment was ordered.

Aaren Jagadeesh worked as a financial services representative for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto. He was repeatedly turned down for promotions.

At a one-on-one meeting with his manager on Sept. 15, 2015, Jagadeesh said he was told that every male manager in the office was gay or bisexual, and, unless he joined this “group” there was “no hope” for him, court heard.

Be smart and learn

Jagadeesh claims the manager said this was why young male employees with little or no qualifications were promoted; told him to “be smart and learn”; and then allegedly asked Jagadeesh what he thought of him.

Jagadeesh said he replied that he thought of him as just his manager. He claims he told his boss he was willing to work with anyone but he was not gay or bisexual.

The incident negatively impacted his “mental stress and self-dignity,” he said, but it was not his only trouble at work.

His job, according to court records, required him to call 60 to 70 customers each day to sell products, which required him to read four to six pages of product information and legal disclosures.

The bank evaluated his performance by measuring two metrics: “wrap time,” meaning the time between calls must be less than 30 seconds, and “adherence targets,” meaning operators must be on calls 96 per cent or more of the time on their shift.

After several months of continuous calling, he developed severe throat and vocal cord pain. His family doctor recommended modified duties. He claims he was instead asked by the bank to go on short-term disability. CIBC referred him to another doctor, who in turn referred him to a specialist. The specialist concluded he suffered from muscle tension dysphonia and needed regular medical breaks to fully recover, court heard.

Jagadeesh said CIBC started discriminating against him soon after the diagnosis. His pay as well as bonuses and incentives were cut. He said he was threatened with discipline if he took his medical breaks. He said he was turned down for 17 alternate jobs.

The incident negatively impacted his ‘mental stress and self-dignity,’ he said

Jagadeesh believed “the encounter” with his manager about sexual orientation “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 in a court ruling.

Jagadeesh was fired on May 10, 2016. He filed a human rights complaint the following April alleging discrimination by CIBC because of disability and sexual orientation. He alleged that young employees received promotions, awards, and favours because they were sexually exploited.

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

CIBC officials were interviewed — but not the manager who allegedly made the remarks about only gay and bisexual men being promoted. That manager, the investigator was told, was on “extended leave of absence.”

The investigator declined to proceed further on the complaint of sexual orientation discrimination, but did assess his disability complaint and found that CIBC had adequately accommodated him.

Last November, the commission dismissed the complaints.

Representing himself, Jagadeesh appealed to the Federal Court, seeking a review of the commission’s decision. He complained the investigator had selectively ignored evidence to avoid dealing with the sexual orientation complaint.

CIBC, however, agreed with the investigator’s conclusions. The bank argued it was a thorough probe and that nothing linked the negative treatment Jagadeesh allegedly experienced to his sexual orientation. CIBC argued he was simply unqualified.

Fuhrer, in a decision released in September, ruled that the commission’s investigation and decisions were not procedurally fair to Jagadeesh. Fuhrer said the lack of thoroughness in reviewing the grounds of the complaint meant the decision must be set aside.

She ordered the commission to try again with a different investigator.

Hanna Lange-Chenier, a spokeswoman for the commission, said she could not discuss the case or reveal its status.

“The law prevents us from commenting on any complaint in our system,” she said.

Jagadeesh also clashed with CIBC over how much the bank should reimburse him for the cost of his successful court challenge and returned to court last month.

Jagadeesh had represented himself and said he spent $438.10 in expenses, while CIBC said it had spent significantly more than $5,000 to defend the case. Apparently then understanding he could claim for his time as well as expenses, he asked for $6,646.57 while CIBC said he should only get $500.

“Self-represented litigants are eligible for a moderate allowance above the costs of their direct disbursements to reflect the time and effort they devoted to preparing and presenting their case,” Fuhrer ruled on Nov. 19.

She ordered CIBC to pay him half of what he asked for: $3,332.30.

Crystal Jongeward, senior consultant, public affairs with CIBC said: “While we are unable to comment as the matter is still before the commission, no form of harassment or discrimination is acceptable at our bank.”

Jagadeesh could not be reached for comment.

• Email: ahumphreys@nationalpost.com | Twitter: AD_Humphreys


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