BC Municipality CFO Awarded $650k in Racial Bias Case

The former chief financial officer for a BC municipality has been awarded almost $650,000 in compensation after BC’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled his firing for corporate credit card misuse was tainted by racial bias and stereotyping.

According to the ruling (link below), the CFO — a Black man — was slow with repayments after making personal purchases worth more than $14,000 with his card, in contravention of an agreement governing its use by city employees. However, all amounts were eventually repaid.

The case prompted a review of the city’s credit card policy, as well as an audit that found the employer’s earlier approach had effectively condoned personal purchases by employees, including the CFO.

Despite this, city staff member filed a misconduct report against the CFO, who by then had repaid all amounts owing, which formed the basis for his highly publicized suspension by the city council and his eventual termination.

In its decision, the Tribunal found the misconduct report was “inflected with racial bias and stereotype — likely unconscious — which ran through each of the key points.” Examples include painting the CFO’s credit card use as more sinister than it was, imputed motives about the CFO using the credit card for personal gain which was not supported by evidence, and comments about exaggerated “risk” of further misconduct, without conducting an actual investigation.

Since the report was the foundation for his suspension and termination, these decisions were discriminatory, the ruling continues.

In addition to $580,000 in compensation for lost wages, the tribunal ordered the city to pay its former CFO $50,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect, as well as $10,000 for expenses incurred as a result of the Human Rights Code contravention.