Fired Paladin Security worker, who says he is a Nigerian tribal chief, has religious discrimination case sent to human rights tribunal on appeal

A security guard on patrol at night. Photo: Canva

A former employee of Paladin Security Group in Alberta, who claims he is a Nigerian tribal chief who was fired after taking time off for religious observations following the death of his ancestral king, has had his human rights complaint sent to a tribunal for a hearing following a number of appeals.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta overturned a decision made by the Director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission in the case involving allegations of religious discrimination.

The worker — OS — appealed a prior decision that dismissed his complaint of discrimination in the workplace based on his religious beliefs.

His case hinges on an incident from Sept. 7, 2018, where he cancelled a work shift at short notice, claiming it was due to his need to participate in the religious traditions. Paladin Security, on the other hand, argued that OS did not inform them of his need for religious accommodation and maintained that his termination was for non-discriminatory reasons.

It said OS told him he needed to return to Toronto to deal with his spouse and pack his belongings.

The initial dismissal of OS’ complaint by the Director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission was upheld by the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. However, this decision was later overturned by the Alberta Court of King’s Bench, citing the need for a more thorough review under section 26 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

The heart of the controversy lies in whether OS’ religious beliefs were a factor in Paladin Security’s decision to terminate his probationary employment. The company cited several reasons for the dismissal, including his unavailability for shifts and lack of communication.

“While I share the (employer’s) concerns about credibility in the circumstances, I respect the role of the tribunal in weighing evidence and making findings of fact,” it said.

The situation here is that the complainant says he told the respondent that the reason he cancelled the shifts was due to his religious beliefs, it said.

“The respondent acknowledges that cancellation of the shifts was a factor in his termination. If it knew the late cancellation of shifts was due to religious beliefs, the religious beliefs were a factor in the termination. The credibility issue is the very heart of the Complaint, and the Tribunal is best positioned to carefully assess that on a full record, after hearing sworn testimony and cross examination,” it said.

This case now moves forward to the Tribunal, where the nuances of OS’ claims and Paladin Security’s defense will be examined in detail.

For more information, see Shodunke v Paladin Security Group Ltd., 2023 AHRC 108 (CanLII)