Home Featured Worker who developed fear of men after boss sexually harassed her awarded $80K by HRTO

Worker who developed fear of men after boss sexually harassed her awarded $80K by HRTO

by HR Law Canada

A worker who was sexually harassed by her boss, leading to panic attacks, insomnia, and a general fear of men, has been awarded nearly $80,000 by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).

The tribunal ruled in favour of A.A., a former employee of Data & Scientific Inc., finding both the company and its executive vice-president, T.A., jointly and severally liable for breaches of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

A.A.’s application detailed numerous instances of unwanted sexual advances and harassment by T.A., creating a toxic work environment that led her to resign. Despite multiple notices and opportunities to respond, the respondents failed to participate in the tribunal process, resulting in a default judgment.

Key findings and evidence

The tribunal’s decision hinged on the unchallenged testimony of A.A., who described a series of harassing behaviours by T.A. from June to August 2021.

These behaviours included:

  • Inquiring about her sexual orientation, specifically if she was a “homosexual.”
  • Hugging her abruptly in his office on multiple occasions.
  • Touching her shoulder, face, stomach, thighs, and buttocks, and claiming he should be allowed to touch her whenever he wanted.
  • Stating that he “needed someone to bang.”
  • Calling her a “dirty pig” and asserting he would “never have married her.
  • “Referring to her as his “missus” and saying that she seemed like it.
  • Telling her she played five roles in his life: wife, lover, daughter, employee, and friend, and saying “he will steal me, and that I was a part of him.”
  • Asking what she would do if he touched her “front” and repeating the question after she said she would call the police.

She testified that his conduct caused her significant emotional distress, leading to panic attacks, insomnia, and a general fear of men.

Supporting her claims, A.A. provided MP3 recordings which outline her memory of the harassment and medical documentation of her subsequent psychological issues. The tribunal accepted her evidence as credible, especially given the absence of any rebuttal from the respondents.

“The applicant’s testimony and evidence present a consistent and credible account of sexual harassment and discrimination,” the tribunal said. “The respondents’ failure to engage in the process leaves the tribunal with no alternative but to accept the applicant’s version of events.”

Remedies ordered

The tribunal awarded A.A. $28,218.56 for lost wages and $110 for medical expenses. Additionally, she was awarded $50,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

The tribunal also mandated that T.A. complete a sexual harassment prevention seminar and that Data & Scientific Inc. update its Office Protocol Handbook to include a section on sexual harassment prevention.

Lessons from this case

  1. Prompt and Thorough Responses to Complaints: Employers must take all complaints of harassment seriously and respond promptly. Ignoring tribunal notices can result in a default judgment, as seen in this case.
  2. Clear Anti-Harassment Policies: Employers should ensure their policies are up-to-date and clearly communicated to all employees. Regular training on these policies is essential to prevent harassment and protect the company legally.
  3. Support for Affected Employees: Providing support to employees who report harassment, including mental health resources, can mitigate the emotional impact and demonstrate the company’s commitment to a safe workplace.

For more information, see Aloy-Sadakane v. Data & Scientific Inc., 2024 HRTO 770 (CanLII).

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