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Employer’s ‘spam folder’ defense fails in $180K sexual harassment case

by HR Law Canada

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) has denied a request for reconsideration by RayDaniel Salon & Spa and its owner regarding a previous ruling that found them liable for discrimination and awarded $180,000 in damages to the applicant, L.N.

The decision upheld the original findings of sexual harassment, solicitation, advances, citizenship discrimination, and reprisal.

Background of the case

The original ruling on Feb. 7, 2024, detailed severe allegations of misconduct by the respondents. The Tribunal found substantial evidence supporting L.N.’s claims of repeated sexual harassment and inappropriate solicitations. Additionally, L.N. faced discrimination based on her citizenship and suffered reprisals after voicing her concerns.

The Tribunal awarded her $180,000 for the injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

Grounds for reconsideration

The respondents based their reconsideration request on Rule 26.5(b) of the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure, which allows for reconsideration if a party did not receive notice of the proceeding through no fault of their own.

They claimed that critical emails regarding the hearings went to their spam folder and that their former paralegal did not properly file necessary forms, resulting in their absence from crucial stages of the proceedings.

Tribunal’s analysis and decision

The adjudicator was not persuaded by the respondents’ arguments, noting multiple inconsistencies and previous opportunities where they could have rectified their non-participation. She highlighted that the respondents’ failure to receive notices was not due to an administrative error but their own missteps and lack of diligence.

“The evidence presented is neither compelling nor credible,” the tribunal wrote, pointing out that the respondents communicated effectively through the same email address in other instances and even sought legal action in Small Claims Court during the same period.

Moreover, the Tribunal found that the respondents attempted to relitigate issues already decided in a prior reconsideration decision from Oct, 5, 2023. The tribunal emphasized that issue estoppel prevents parties from revisiting decisions already resolved unless they seek judicial review, which the respondents did not pursue.

Conclusion and implications

The decision to refuse reconsideration affirms the original ruling, holding RayDaniel Salon & Spa and its owner accountable for their actions. This case underscores the importance of adhering to procedural rules and timelines in legal proceedings and the Tribunal’s commitment to upholding justice for victims of discrimination and harassment.

Lessons from this case

  1. Diligent Communication: Ensure all legal communications are tracked and promptly addressed. Ignorance due to misplaced emails can have severe legal consequences.
  2. Proper Legal Representation: Employ qualified legal professionals who are well-versed in relevant procedural rules to avoid technical missteps that could jeopardize your case.
  3. Proactive Compliance: Actively address and rectify any allegations of misconduct promptly to prevent escalation and demonstrate good faith in resolving workplace disputes.

For more information, see L.N. v. RayDaniel Salon & Spa, 2024 HRTO 726 (CanLII).

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