‘Unshaken testimony’: Ontario lawyer cleared of sexual harassment, ethnic origin allegations

Osgoode Hall that houses the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Divisional Court of the Superior Court of Justice, the offices of the Law Society of Ontario. Photo: Elijah-Lovkoff/Getty Images/Canva

An Ontario lawyer has been cleared of allegations that he sexually harassed two former employees and made discriminatory comments based on ethnic origin by the Law Society Tribunal Hearing Division.

The Law Society of Ontario had accused him of sexually harassing two former employees, identified only as AB and CD, and making the discriminatory comments.

AB, a former associate at the firm, claimed she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances and derogatory comments, specifically targeting her ethnic background and women of Japanese origin.

Similarly, CD, another former employee, alleged sexual harassment, including leering and unwanted physical contact. Throughout the hearings, testimony was provided by both complainants, their partners, and other employees of the firm, painting a complex picture of the workplace environment.

Despite these serious accusations, the tribunal ultimately found the evidence presented by the complainants not credible enough to support the charges of misconduct.

It pointed to inconsistencies in some of the statements versus the lawyer’s “unshaken testimony that these comments were not made.”

The lawyer’s defense contended that the office culture was inclusive, and any personal inquiries were intended to foster a welcoming environment, a point that was supported by testimonies from other employees.

“We conclude that the Law Society has not established that the Lawyer sexually harassed AB and CD as alleged or that he made discriminatory comments contrary to the Rules as alleged,” the Tribunal said.

For more information, see Law Society of Ontario v. Kazembe, 2024 ONLSTH 10 (CanLII)