UWindsor Professor says Mask Complaint Against Thai Palace "Has No Legs"

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An associate professor at the University of Windsor is chiming in on a debate between an east end restaurant and a customer who refused to wear a mask when picking up takeout food.

"If I were adjudicating this matter in that clash of rights, I think that health and safety trumps."

This from Yasminka Kalajdzic — she's the Director of the Class Action Clinic at the university.

Kalajdzic says the Human Rights Code states people have the right to be free from discrimination, but workplaces also have the right to protect their employees.

The comments come after a customer came to the takeout window at Thai Palace on Lauzon Rd., but would not wear a mask despite signs on the storefront stating a face covering is required to protect staff from COVID-19.

Two days after the confrontation, the restaurant was delivered a legal letter threatening legal action if $20,000 wasn't paid by Friday.

Kalajdzic says complainant doesn't have a leg to stand on.

"I don't see that the restaurant did anything wrong in denying service. Certainly they could go to the Human Rights Tribunal with a complaint, but I don't think that the complaint has legs to it."

She says demanding money could be considered extortion.

"It's almost certain that no court would award $20,000 in damages even if the restaurant were found to have violated the code. This then makes the demand akin to extortion hoping that the restaurant owners out of fear or ignorance will simply pay up."

Kalajdzic says the complaint would never stand up in court.

"If you're alleging discrimination on the basis of a protected ground such as you're under a disability, you have to prove the disability. So simply saying I find it hard to breathe wearing a mask for a couple of minutes at a drive thru window, it's not a winning argument."

According to restaurant co-owner Renu Anderson, the customer in question was offered a free mask, but refused to comply and left without his food.

The current mask bylaw states an individual can refuse to wear a face covering for health or religious reasons — neither of which were stated in the legal letter.

— with files from AM800's Patty Handysides