Human rights board rules in favour of sisters in workplace harassment case

The Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication has ruled in favour of two Whitehorse sisters whose former employer harassed them and called them derogatory names, including “squaws.”

The Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication has ruled in favour of two Whitehorse sisters whose former employer harassed them and called them derogatory names, including “squaws.”

The board has awarded Suzannah Simon and Bobbi-Jean Simon $2,500 each in damages, to be paid by Rhonda Sallows, owner of White Tornado Cleaning Services. The decision comes after a hearing held in Whitehorse on Jan. 27.

The sisters worked for Sallows for a brief period in 2015 as cleaners on the construction site of the new F.H. Collins Secondary School. Suzannah, age 36 at the time of the complaint, testified that she is Gwich’in and a member of the Inuvik Native Band. Bobbi-Jean, 27 at the time, is a member of the Tetlit Gwich’in First Nation.

The sisters worked several shifts for Sallows in July 2015. According to the decision, Suzannah testified that “there would be a lot of swearing and yelling” when Sallows showed up to the work site.

The sisters claimed that Sallows pocket-dialled Bobbi-Jean’s phone when they were on their way to get their first cheques from her on July 14. They overheard her referring to them as “stupid-ass bitches.”

Suzannah and Bobbi-Jean decided to quit on July 23. According to Suzannah’s testimony, she felt that Sallows was “putting her down, belittling her,” the decision says.

After Bobbi-Jean sent Sallows a text message on July 27 about getting the remainder of their pay, Sallows responded with a string of angry messages, calling the sisters “squaws,” “pill poppers” and “FAS kuds,” presumably meaning “FAS kids.”

She also left a voicemail on Bobbi-Jean’s phone, in which she again called them “squaws.”

Suzannah testified that the word “squaw” bothered her most, and that it was racist. Bobbi-Jean said it was “hard to talk about how the comments made her feel, as her younger brother suffers from FASD,” according to the decision. The sisters filed a human rights complaint on Aug. 7, 2015.

Sallows submitted a response to the human rights complaint, but refused to attend the hearing. As a result, her response was given no weight as evidence.

In its decision, the board found that “squaw” is a “gendered, racist pejorative targeting Indigenous women.” It also found that Sallows’ reference to fetal alcohol syndrome was “rooted in the racist stereotype that First Nations people are alcohol-abusers.”

Therefore, it found that Sallows had harassed the sisters “by reference to both race and sex.”

Based on a similar case from British Columbia, the board awarded each of the sisters $2,500 in damages, to be paid by Sallows, for the “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect caused by this discrimination.”

The Yukon Human Rights Commission had sought an award of $7,500 for each sister.

Neither the Simon sisters nor Sallows could be reached by deadline.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read