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Montréal, March 19, 2019 - As the New York City Commission on Human Rights adopts a law to ban race discrimination on the basis of hair, a Madisons New York Grill & Bar restaurant in Montreal will proceed to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal for discrimination against an English-speaking young Black hostess, due to her cornrow hairstyle.

In March 2015, Lettia McNickle's employment was terminated due in part to the local restaurant owner's disapproval of her cornrow braids. The owner, Roulla Kyriacou, also told McNickle to wear skirts while other hostesses were allowed to wear either skirts or pants. McNickle also began to experience her hours of employment being reduced and eventually cut completely.

After investigating CRARR's complaint filed on behalf of McNickle, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission concluded last Fall that she had been a victim of discrimination based on race, ethnic or national origin and gender. It recommended that Kyriacou and Madisons New York Grill & Bar pay her $10,000 in moral damages, that Kyriacou personally pay her $1,500 in punitive damages and that the establishment pay her $3,000 in punitive damages.

Since the respondents did not comply with the Commission's decision before Christmas, and that discussions between the parties have been unable to lead to a satisfactory conclusion, McNickle has requested that her case be brought before the Human Rights Tribunal last week.

This case is believed to be the first to be litigated in Canada, and will have a national impact on the fight against anti-Black racism in employment, where Black women are concerned.

Ironically, as Madisons New York Grill & Bar goes to court in Montreal for hair discrimination, the New York City Commission on Human Rights adopted last month a Legal Enforcement Guidance on race discrimination on the basis of hair. Under this new addition to its human rights law, the NYC Commission considers that “grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people generally violate the NYCHRL's anti-discrimination provisions.”

CRARR encourages Black individuals and organizations in Montreal to support McNickle to filing for intervention in this ground-breaking discrimination case and attending Tribunal hearings. It is expected that the case will be heard later this year.