Gibsons, B.C. restaurant ordered to pay ex-worker $30,000 for gender identity discrimination

GIBSONS, B.C. (NEWS 1130) — A restaurant in Gibsons has been ordered to pay one of its ex-workers $30,000 for discriminating against their gender identity.

The Human Rights Tribunal has ruled both the owners and the bar manager of Buono Osteria discriminated against their employee, Jessie Nelson, by using the wrong pronouns.

Nelson identifies as non-binary and identifies as they/them.

According to the ruling, their bar manager, Brian Gobelle, persistently referred to them with she and her pronouns, as well as gendered nicknames like “sweetheart,” “honey,” and “pinky.”

According to the tribunal decision, Nelson asked management to intervene and was told to wait.

On their final day of work, Nelson tried to talk to Gobelle about the issue, and the discussion grew heated. Nelson was fired four days later.

“Pressed to explain the termination, Mr. [Ryan] Kingsberry told Jessie Nelson that they had simply come on ‘too strong too fast’ and were too ‘militant,'” the document reads.

Kingsberry co-runs the restaurant with Michael Buono.


The tribunal ruled Nelson was discriminated against on the basis of gender, and that they are to be paid by the restaurant. Staff at the restaurant will also need to undergo mandatory training about human rights in the workplace.

Adrienne Smith is a social justice lawyer in Vancouver and represents Nelson in the case of Nelson v. Goodberry Restaurant Group. They admit the award is high as it follows a greater trend that the Human Rights Tribunal in British Columbia has been following “to compensate people properly for human rights abuses that they see in the workplace.”

They add, Nelson’s case was particularly serious because it has to do with the loss of employment.

‘Respect pronouns’

Smith says they believe this case will be one many restaurant staff are familiar with — partially dealing with unwelcome comments or nicknames from colleagues or customers.

Particularly, in this case, Smith stresses that restaurants and their staff are already stretched thin amid the pandemic, as it becomes difficult to attract workers.

“What this decision says is that workers in those situations need to be treated with respect. Importantly, what it says is that the correct pronouns for transgender people are not optional. They’re the minimum of courtesy and respect. And they’re a legal requirement,” Smith said.

“These pronouns aren’t preferred. It’s not a preference. It’s not an option to respect the pronouns that trans people choose for themselves. It’s a legal requirement to use the pronouns that a trans person uses for themselves and asks to have used in the workplace,” they added.

Nelson’s lawyer notes they are hopeful the decision will have an educational impact.

“It will show employers what’s required of them so that other workers won’t be in this position when they need to bring a human rights complaint. I’m hopeful that it will do what many human rights decisions do and show the public what the expectation is.”

– With files from Claire Fenton

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