An HR professional in Alberta has been awarded more than $90,000 after being sexually harassed and fired by the human resources manager she reported to at Emerson Electric Canada.
Tara Yaschuk filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission in September 2014. She alleged that her boss, Scott Forbes, harassed her and that she was terminated when she complained to management about his behaviour.
There were several disturbing incidents outlined in the ruling published by the Human Rights Tribunal of Alberta.
- Forbes invited Yaschuk to view a video entitled “Movie 43: Ball Neck” in his office. It contained sexual content and he also emailed a link to the video to her.
- He engaged in conversation and joking of a sexual nature in the office.
- Forbes referred to her as a credenza on multiple occasions.
- He engaged in flirtatious or suggestive behaviour and commentary on social occasions outside the office.
- He involved himself in Yaschuk’s personal relationships.
- He made suggestive comments about other women in the office.
At the tribunal, the employer questioned the credibility of Yaschuk and said the incidents simply don’t support a finding of sexual harassment. It also said that the termination of her contract (she was hired as an independent contractor) had nothing to do with the alleged harassment nor did those actions contribute to the decline of her mental health.
The tribunal disagreed, and sided with Yashcuk.
The tribunal said it accepted the evidence that Forbes made comments and jokes of a sexual nature, that he sent her a sexually explicit video, and that he sent her email jokes of a sexual nature.
“I accept that he referred to her as a credenza and this related to Emerson’s control over the complainant’s tenure. I accept that he commented on her appearance, made suggestive comments about other women, and made intrusive enquiries about her personal life,” the tribunal said in the ruling. “I accept that the complainant’s manager told her that he wanted to have an affair. I accept the respondent’s evidence that the termination of the complainant’s contract had been contemplated on more than one occasion, but I find that the timing and the manner of her termination were motivated in part by her manager’s personal feelings.”
In short, the tribunal said the “timing and manner of her termination were related to her manager’s perception that she was no longer sexually available.”
It awarded $50,000 in general damages and $42,750 for lost wages – compensating Yaschuk for 11.4 weeks in lost pay, the period between July 11, 2014 when she was fired to Sept. 30, 2014.
More to the story
This human rights ruling has numerous lessons for employers – the lengthy ruling is worth a read as it touches on:
- Workplace investigations in response to a complaint
- Independent contractor versus employee
- Mental health
For more information see:
Yaschuk v Emerson Electric Canada Limited, 2022 AHRC 62 (CanLII)