You can respect human rights and control the sale of intoxicating substances
Your Rights, Your Obligations
The complainant, an Aboriginal woman, alleged that the retailer’s decision not to sell her a product containing an intoxicating substance was based on her ancestry.
The retailer admitted that staff refused sale of the product to the complainant. Staff did not suspect the complainant was a substance abuser, but were concerned that the customer was purchasing the product for use by abusers in the vicinity.
The retailer said there were many substance abusers in the area where the store was located, and that the police had warned them that if intoxicants were sold to abusers, the media would be contacted and the retailer would be charged.
Before the conclusion of the investigation by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, the retailer made an offer of settlement acceptable to the complainant and the case was closed as settled.
Mr. Friday, an Aboriginal man, went to a Superstore in Regina to pick up some items for his niece. A stroke nine years earlier had left him with a slight limp and a minor speech impediment.
When he placed his items to be purchased on the checkout counter, a security guard removed a cleaning product containing an intoxicating substance, and told Mr. Friday that he was drunk and should leave the store.
Mr. Friday tried to tell the security guard that he did not drink, and asked to see a manager. The manager came and said he accepted the security guard’s assessment of the situation.
Mr. Friday left the store and got into his car, which had a handicap sticker and was parked in a spot reserved for disabled parking. The security guard followed him and told him to get out of his car as he was too drunk to drive and that police had been called.
The police arrived and determined that Mr. Friday was sober, but required that he apologize to the retailer.
Mr. Friday filed a human rights complaint alleging that he had been discriminated against based on his Aboriginal ancestry. A Human Rights Tribunal found that the security guard had no evidence at the time of the refusal of service that Mr. Friday was intoxicated and that Mr. Friday has “suffered a great deal of humiliation at the hands of the security guard.”
The employer was held to have some of the responsibility for Mr. Friday’s treatment. Two problems were identified with respect to the retailer’s policy. The first was that it gave authority to security guards “to remove intoxicated people from the store without giving these guards proper training in how to assess intoxication.” The second problem was that the store manager had deferred to the judgement of the security guard, and did not independently assess the situation.
Westfair Foods Ltd. was ordered to pay $5000.00 in compensation to Mr. Friday for injury to his dignity and self-respect.
Friday v. Westfair Foods Ltd. (2002), 45 C.H.R.R. D/218 (Sask.H.R.T.)
What are policy considerations in controlling the sale of products containing intoxicating substances?
A retailer developing a policy with respect to the sale of products containing intoxicating substances should ensure that it does not:
- exclude members of a particular group based on impressionistic assumptions; or
- treat one group more harshly than others without justification.
Retailers should also ensure that a policy is not unnecessarily broad.
Retailers are encouraged to seek assistance from those with expertise in the identification of persons who abuse intoxicating substances, so that their policy does not adversely affect customers with disabilities unrelated to the use of such substances. Training for staff in assessing intoxication and in applying the policy is also recommended.