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Restaurant fined $10,000 for asking only Black Customers to prepay for their orders


Restaurant fined $10,000 for asking only Black Customers to prepay for their orders

By Victor Ochieng

Owners of a Chinese restaurant have been fined $10,000 by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after the restaurant racially profiled Emile Wickham and his friends, all Black men, by demanding that they pay for their food before placing their order.

In an April 2018 decision, Adjudicator Esi Codjoe made a ruling that Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant infringed on the rights of Emile Wickham after their server “presumed [him] to be a potential thief in waiting despite any evidence to that effect.”

The whole incident took place in May 2014 when Wickham visited the restaurant to celebrate his birthday with his friends after class. However, before they could place their order, a server asked them to pay up-front, insisting it’s a policy applied on all their customers. But even after they paid, Wickham and his team were asked to be taken a picture of for “exhibit” just in case some-thing went wrong.

The now 31-years-old Wickham was a little suspicious of the alleged prepay policy and so he asked at least three other customers if they were asked to pay in advance, but all said no.

As soon as they realized they were the only customers asked to pay upfront, Wickham and team immediately confronted the server “to explain why they had to pay and no one else had been expected to do so,” read the tribunal’s decision. Instead of giving an explanation, the server opted to give them a re-fund.

The owners of the restaurant didn’t show up at the tribunal. However, their representatives argued that the said prepay policy had been in effect for a year before the time of the Wickham incident and that only known regulars weren’t asked to pay in advance.

In making the decision, however, Codjoe said the restaurant failed to produce any evidence to support their argument that the policy had been in effect at the time.

“[Wickham’s] mere presence as a Black man in a restaurant was presumed to be sufficient evidence of his presumed propensity to engage in criminal behavior,” Codjoe wrote in her decision. “At its core racial profiling is a form of short hand that enables the perpetrator of the behavior to assume certain facts and ignore others.”

Besides being fined $10,000, the tribunal also ordered the restaurant to strategically place an Ontario Human Rights Commission Code card at the restaurant to act as a constant reminder to them.


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