A former Leon’s furniture employee is alleging racial discrimination after he says a statue was lynched in effigy at a store in Burnside, N.S.
Elsworth Bottomley complained to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that a number of racial incidents occured during his two years working at the Burnside store.
Bottomley, who is African Nova Scotian, said a fellow driver sent him a text message making comments about the intelligence of black people.
He also said a Leon's manager told him he never sends two black delivery drivers to a job because that would intimidate customers and raise fears of robbery.
Finally, Bottomley told the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that someone hung a black statue in a window at the store. His lawyer, Lisa Teryl, called it a "lynching effigy."
The 45-centimetre high statue, which Leon’s offers for sale, was hanged by the neck with electrical tape. Its eyes were painted white in what Teryl calls “blackface” style.
Teryl said the incident prompted her client to leave Leon's, and he took pictures of the statue before he left.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Leon's said two employees were fired over the incident.
Second allegation of racism at same store
Bottomley’s story emerges as a human rights board of inquiry investigates another case of racial discrimination at the same store. Garnetta Cromwell, also African Nova Scotian, alleges a Leon’s manager referred to her employee evaluation as a lynching.
The board is considering whether Bottomley's evidence should be admissible in Cromwell’s case as relevant information.
The lawyer for Leon's Furniture Ltd., said Bottomley's evidence is irrelevant to Cromwell's human rights complaint. Lisa Gallivan said Cromwell's employment was 2004 to 2008, and Bottomley's allegations fall outside this timeframe.
She argued that introducing Bottomley's unsubstantiated complaint at the last minute is an attempt to sensationalize the process.
She said Bottomley's complaint is a separate matter.
Teryl argued Bottomley's story is relevant because it speaks to how Leon's managers continue to respond to racial issues in the workplace.
Gallivan said introducing Bottomley’s evidence at Cromwell's hearing calls into question whether Leon's can receive a fair hearing from the commission.
Leon's Furniture dropped a publication ban request after legal arguments after the ban was contested by CBC and the Chronicle Herald.
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