General Motors settles discrimination complaints over citizenship requirements

Employees with citizenship from countries other than Canada or U.S. were sent home because they didn't have clearance to work on American military vehicles

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has brokered a settlement between General Motors of Canada Limited and six workers who complained of discrimination based on their citizenship and place of origin.

The unionized workers, who are all Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, also hold citizenships from other countries. They worked in a division of General Motors which manufactured military vehicles for various governments, including the United States. To produce these vehicles, the division received material and data from those countries.

However, U.S. export control laws state that no person who holds a citizenship from countries other than Canada or the United States can have access to some of the information without security clearance from the U.S. State Department. As a result, General Motors called the workers to a meeting and sent them home with pay because of their citizenship. The employees were later returned to work but the company didn’t apply for security clearances for them, so they faced restrictions on access to the information required to do their jobs or had to perform alternate duties. The division was later sold to the General Dynamics Land Systems Canada.

The commission brought the workers together with General Motors and a settlement was reached in July 2007 before matters proceeded to a hearing. The company agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of cash to each of the six employees. As part of the settlement, General Dynamics pledged in the future to make all reasonable efforts to secure proper clearance as is necessary so its employees can do their jobs and differential treatment is minimized.

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