In a recent case, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a substantial award of moral damages to an employee subjected to long–term sexual harassment, after she made a formal complaint to her manager. Unfortunately, such behavior from employers continues to persist despite the present anti–discrimination laws, and hopefully cases like these set a trend of strong enforcement, which would serve as a more effective deterrent to employers.
In this case, the employee worked for the employer for almost a decade, and was the only woman in the workplace at the time she was fired. The employee was subjected to continuous sexual harassment by one of the employer’s managers who openly stared and pretended to photograph her breasts, as well as demean her in front of the other employees. The employee filed a harassment complaint with the general manager, who suggested that doing so would damage the employee’s professional reputation. The employee was fired a few days later, and asked to sign a waiver of her rights associated with the years of harassment that she had experienced.
At the trial level the court held that the employer did not act properly and with good faith when dismissing the employee, and ordered moral damages, which are intended to compensate the employee for the unfair treatment that she had received. The Court was particularly concerned with the employer’s behavior after the employee filed the complaint. The employer appealed the order for moral damages, claiming only $20,000.00 would have been appropriate. The Appeal Court upheld the award of $60,000.00 in moral damages noting the highly oppressive and insensitive nature of the employer’s conduct.
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