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Queen's University
 

Meeting the Test: Employer's Response

Bottom Line

Tribunals have give some directions to employers who wish to avoid liability   

Workplace Harassment

In Budge v Thorvaldson Care Homes Ltd. (Manitoba Human Rights Tribunal) 2002,   a health care worker, after experiencing sexual harassment from another employee, reported the problem to her supervisor. Nothing changed. The complainant then discussed the issue with the president of the company and, to her astonishment, received a Record of Employment indicating that she had quit (she had not). An investigator found that the president had prior notice of the employee's harassing behavior through a letter written by the company's cook.  In that letter, the cook had outlined the issue, identifying the alleged harasser.  

Failure to Respond

The owner responded to the cook's letter by being dismissive of the allegations of harassment and by intimidating her.

Panel's Ruling

The Human Rights Tribunal made an award requiring the employer to adopt and implement a harassment policy, to monitor the harasser, to report to the Commission on steps taken, to compensate the complainant for lost wages and to pay her $4000 for injury to dignity. The Tribunal found that where an employer is aware of allegations of sexual harassment, whether or not the victim comes forward with allegations, the employer had a duty to investigate the complaint, educate its workforce and make it clear that harassment is unacceptable.  

Test for whether an employer has responded reasonably to allegations of harassment:

  • Has an awareness of harassment as prohibited conduct
  • Has developed and Implemented an effective complaint mechanism
  • Acts with alacrity in handling complaints
  • Deals with allegations seriously
  • Provides a healthy work environment
  • Informs complainant of response
  • Investigates when required to ensure an effective response

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000