Cavalier Response to Sexual Harassment Costs Hamilton $25k

Legal Mosaic

Legal Mosaic

The only female inspector with the City of Hamilton’s public transit service has been awarded $25,000, for the city’s “insensitive” investigation of her sexual harassment complaints.

Among the employee’s complaints: her supervisor called her an “Irish skank.” She had reported incidents that included “pornographic” e-mails sent from the supervisor, and unwelcome offers of massages.

For more than two years, the 23-year employee complained to the City of Hamilton that her supervisor had engaged in inappropriate conduct. Eventually, she filed a grievance and an application under section 34 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, alleging sexual harassment and a poisoned work environment.

The September decision is City of Hamilton v Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 107, 2013 CanLII 62266 (ON LA).

A labour board arbitrator called the city’s response to the complaints “unpardonable” and “half-hearted.” The arbitrator found that the City did not treat the complaint seriously, promptly and with sensitivity to the complainant.

“The very fact that she had come forward with a complaint left her feeling even more vulnerable” than she already did, the arbitrator notes.

Among the problems with the city’s response to the complainant, the arbitrator cites:

  • The City accused the employee of fabricating e-mails
  • A transit director referred to the supervisor as being “victimized” by the complaints
  • Managers did not involve the city’s human rights specialist immediately, despite a policy to do so
  • The employee was left to deal with the matter on her own and was not given information about the status of her complaints
  • City managers failed to consider the workplace power imbalance and employee’s vulnerability
  • The city did not separate the employee and her harasser
  • Some witnesses were not interviewed during the city’s investigation
  • The city’s own procedures were not followed

The arbitrator ordered the city to pay $25,000 in general damages.

According to the city, the supervisor in question was dismissed, with a severance package.

Related SCOPE Content:

Is Harassment a Workplace Hazard?

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