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Rights hearing for Jewish hairdresser forced not to work on Shabbat delayed

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Richard Zilberg
Richard Zilberg

A Jewish hairdresser whose complaint of discrimination by his Jewish employer was upheld by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Commission last fall is still waiting for the unsettled case to be brought by the commission before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

Richard Zilberg worked for Spa Orazen (now Spa Liv Zen) from October 2011 to August 2012 when he was dismissed. He was forbidden from working on Shabbat by the business’ main owner, Iris Gressy, because he’s Jewish, Zilberg testified. Gressy, an observant Jew, operated the spa on Saturdays, but did not work there herself at that time. Zilberg said he was fired after telling clients about what he felt was an unfair directive from Gressy.

READ: RIGHTS BODY SIDES WITH JEWISH HAIRDRESSER AGAINST JEWISH BOSS

The commission recommended that Zilberg be compensated $20,000 by the spa and Gressy for material damages of loss of income and other hardship, moral damages, and punitive damages for intentional violation of his civil rights.

Zilberg’s complaint was filed for him by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a non-profit organization combating discrimination. It took three years for the commission to release its decision, and the respondents did not pay him damages by the deadline set by the commission of Oct. 23, 2015.

“Normally, in cases of non-compliance, the commission brings the file to the Human Rights Tribunal within a month or two,” said CRARR executive director Fo Niemi.

The tribunal is a court.

“In our years of civil rights work, we have never seen this kind of prolonged delay, which is quite worrisome because employers and other institutional respondents will no longer take the commission seriously,” Niemi said.

In January, CRARR wrote to commission chair Jacques Frémont about the the file and was told the lawyer in charge would follow up “in a few weeks.” Last month, CRARR sent a second letter to Frémont and at time of writing, had yet to receive a response. The commission declined CJN requests to comment, citing confidentiality.

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