Home Featured ‘Going with younger people now’: Toronto water taxi driver awarded $20K for age discrimination

‘Going with younger people now’: Toronto water taxi driver awarded $20K for age discrimination

by HR Law Canada

A former water taxi driver in Toronto has been awarded $20,000 in lost wages and damages after the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal agreed he was a victim of age discrimination.

The tribunal ruled in favor of C.Y., who alleged that he was dismissed from his job due to his age, contrary to the Human Rights Code. The respondent, The Otter Guy, failed to appear at the hearing and did not provide necessary documentation or witness statements, leading the tribunal to proceed in their absence.


C.Y., who had been a water taxi driver for about two years with The Otter Guy, previously worked for a competitor for more than 20 years — working on Toronto’s harbourfront sine 1980. A photo of an award he received in 2015, in recognition of 30 years of service, was entered as an exhibit.

He was lured to join The Otter Guy by a promise of higher pay in June 2016. C.Y. was paid a base salary of $25 an hour, plus tips — and the tips were “sizable.” He was terminated on June 10, 2018.

“I showed up at the dock to work. [the CEO] asked me what I was doing there, and I told him that I was there to work. He got onto one of the water taxi boats and told me that they were going with younger people now,” he said. “That was all he said to me.”

Shortly after that, C.Y. was approached by a police officer who asked him why he was still at the workplace since he had been fired by the CEO.

“It was only at that point that I understood that my employment was terminated. I was upset and felt like I was being discriminated against due to my age and left the area,” said C.Y.

The driver, who was 72 at the time, left the premises feeling “confused and shocked.”

Tribunal findings

The tribunal found C.Y.’s testimony credible and consistent, supported by his extensive experience and training certificates, including his Restricted Operator’s Certificate and Small Vessel Operator Proficiency Training Certificate from Transport Canada.

It noted that C.Y. had never received any performance-related complaints from the respondent prior to his termination.

The driver’s uncontradicted evidence and the respondent’s absence led the tribunal to conclude that age was a significant factor in his termination, meeting the criteria for prima facie discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

Compensation awarded

The tribunal awarded C.Y. $10,000 for lost wages and an additional $10,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect. He was not provided notice, a termination letter, or any statutory entitlements upon his dismissal, which compounded the severity of the discrimination he faced, it said.

It emphasized the impact of the abrupt and discriminatory termination, stating, “The immediate impact of the discrimination was the understandable embarrassment and upset of having been approached by police who told the applicant that they were terminated and effectively expelling them from the area.”

Lessons from this ruling

  1. Adherence to Procedural Fairness: Employers must ensure compliance with procedural fairness in termination processes, including providing proper notice and documentation to avoid legal repercussions.
  2. Anti-Discrimination Policies: Implement and enforce robust anti-discrimination policies, particularly concerning age, to foster an inclusive workplace and mitigate potential human rights violations.
  3. Training and Awareness: Regularly train management and HR personnel on human rights obligations and respectful termination practices to prevent discriminatory practices.

For more information, see Yanover v. The Otter Guy Inc., 2024 HRTO 731 (CanLII).

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