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Woman awarded $39,000 after being sexually harassed by family friend during work trip to install solar panels

by HR Law Canada

A 20-year-old woman who was subjected to unwanted physical contact and confessions of romantic feelings from her boss — who was also a friend of the family — during a work trip has been awarded more than $39,000 in damages by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

AK worked for AHMIC Maintenance & Storage, a company owned by ML. During her employment, she was subjected to a series of unwelcome interactions and advances by ML, culminating in a disturbing incident during a work trip to install solar panels in July 2017.

But there were some red flags in advance of that trip. For example, in June 2017, she accompanied him on his barge across some locks where she felt she served no significant purpose. Later that month, while she was in Huntsville, Ont., ML texted her at 11 p.m. and invited her to come for a boat ride as he could not sleep.

“She found (this) to be an odd and inappropriate suggestion by a man 30 years her senior,” the Tribunal said. “She did not reply.”

A few days later, he drove her to his favourite lookout point where they “sat together and looked at the view.”

“The next day, he asked her if she was dating anyone, a suggestive comment that even the respondent agreed in testimony to be inappropriate,” the Tribunal said. “Equally suggestive, he told her his sister-in-law was dating an older man and it was working out well.”

The solar panel trip

On July 9, 2017, ML picked AK up and drove her two hours to his trap camp to install solar panels.

When they arrived, it was raining. They went inside the cabin and AK testified that he hugged her, put his hand down her pants, and tried to kiss her.

She said ML told her: “I am just so freaking attracted to you, I don’t know why. Just always have been.” ML denied saying those words.

The Tribunal’s ruling noted, “The personal respondent admitted that he hugged the applicant ‘for comfort’ and told her that he had feelings for her.” He denied putting his hands on her or attempting to kiss her.

After the solar panels were installed, a task AK felt she contributed very little to beyond holding a rope, ML pressed her to put her bathing suit on — but she told him multiple times she had no interest in going swimming.

“She testified that she was terrified and wanted to keep covered up, but he insisted. She was afraid of not doing what he wanted,” the Tribunal said.

Overall, the Tribunal found AK’s account more credible, concluding that ML’s actions constituted sexual harassment.

In its analysis, the Tribunal emphasized the impact of his actions on AK’s mental and emotional well-being. The decision quotes her feelings of betrayal and isolation following the incidents, stating, “The applicant testified that being isolated in the middle of nowhere with a trusted family friend shattered her sense of safety and trust.”

This emotional turmoil led to significant psychological distress for AK, who had a history of anxiety.

‘Heinous incident’: Tribunal

The Tribunal reviewed other sexual harassment cases, and said this case “falls between the lower to middle end of the spectrum.” On one hand, ML attempted to seek opportunities to work with AK, made suggestive comments that caused her to feel uncomfortable and confessed feelings for her.

Those facts fell on the lower end of the spectrum, it said.

“However, incidents where the respondent attempted to kiss the applicant and touch her buttocks under her pants is conduct that would fall closer to the middle of the spectrum. These acts are compounded by the fact that the applicant was already struggling with anxiety issues and viewed the respondent as a safe family friend, in addition to being her employer,” the Tribunal said.

“Moreover, the fact that the most heinous incident occurred while the applicant was alone with the respondent in an isolated area is a serious aggravating factor.”


AK was awarded $26,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect, alongside additional compensation for lost wages and counseling expenses including:

  • $1,666.30 for loss of income;
  • $8,576.70 for past counselling; and
  • $2,796.75 for future counselling.

Moreover, the decision mandates that ML undergo training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

The order states, “The personal respondent shall complete… OHRC and HRPA Webinar on Preventing Sexual Harassment at Work… Upon completion of the modules the personal respondent shall advise applicant’s counsel, in writing, within 30 days of the date of the Decision.”

For more information, see Kreps v. AHMIC Maintenance & Storage Ltd., 2024 HRTO 214 (CanLII).

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