Valle v. Faema Corporation 2000 Ltd., 2017 HRTO 588

The HRLSC represented Marisa Valle, who endured months of demeaning remarks against her religion and gender from her employer, the owner of Toronto-based coffee business Faema. Valle asked the owner, Mike Di Donato, to stop insulting her faith (he repeatedly referred to Mother Mary as a pig) and denigrating her status as a woman. He didn’t stop. Instead he asked Valle to dismiss all the racialized employees. When Valle refused, he fired her.

Marisa Valle filed a human rights claim against Di Donato and Faema. On May 26, 2017, the Human Rights Tribunal released a 46-page decision in Marisa Valle v Faema Corporation 2000 Ltd. and Mike Di Donato. Faema and Di Donato were found to be jointly and severally liable for the discrimination against Valle.

The Tribunal cited Valle’s “ongoing creed and gender based harassment… [her] refusal to comply with racist requests, her termination for refusing to fire racialized employees and the toxic environment she was forced to work in.”

Valle was ultimately terminated for her “refusal to follow orders” – namely her employer’s directive to fire all racialized employees. Di Donato testified at the Tribunal that it was “easier” to hire Italians and justified his comments by adding “When Italians see a cheese grater, they know what it is.”

Valle testified that “she had come to Canada to build her life and career and lost that opportunity.”

“Marisa refused to simply walk away,” commented Emily Shepard, Valle’s lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. “Marisa endured daily humiliation at work, a place where she hoped to shine. Attacks on her religion and gender were deeply disturbing to her as a woman of deep faith. As difficult as it was, she chose to send a clear statement to her employer by taking legal action.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii.