Canada: Harassing Comments Are No Joke: Employer Ordered To Pay Employee $7,500

Last Updated: October 19 2015
Article by Jason Kully

Mohamud v. Canadian Dewatering (2006) Ltd., 2015 AHRC 16, is a recent decision of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. This decision demonstrates the type of workplace harassment that creates a poisoned workplace and is a reminder that an employer may be responsible for paying damages to an employee as compensation for injury to the worker's dignity caused by the discriminatory actions of other employees.

Mr. Liban Mohamud was employed as a pump operator with Canadian Dewatering (2006) Ltd. During the field season, he worked in the field monitoring pumps at tailing ponds. He worked in the shop when the field season ended.

Mr. Mohamud initially made an internal complaint to Canadian Dewatering in which he alleged human rights violations due to workplace harassment. Canadian Dewatering conducted an investigation and determined that the incidents were attributable to miscommunication or misunderstanding rather than discrimination.  

Mr. Mohamud then made a discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Commission about a poisoned work environment created by workplace harassment as a result of his race, colour and religion on June 20, 2011. Canadian Dewatering subsequently terminated him on July 15, 2011. Mr. Mohamud made a second complaint to the Human Rights Commission that his termination was retaliation by Canadian Dewatering as a result of his initial discrimination complaint.

According to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, a poisoned work environment is created when a workplace is hostile or unwelcoming because of insulting, offensive or degrading comments or behaviour aimed at an employee. When comments or behaviour violate the Alberta Human Rights Act, a discrimination complaint may be made. For example, an employee who is subjected to racial or religious slurs and harassment may make a human rights complaint on the grounds of race or religion. 

If the offensive behaviour directed toward an employee is not based on the grounds protected in the Act, the employee cannot make a discrimination complaint. For example, an employee who is insulted or harassed by a coworker because of their intelligence or abilities will not be able to make a complaint if the comments are not based on a protected ground such as mental or physical disability. While comments like these are offensive and may result in other workplace liabilities and responsibilities for employees and employers, they are not the subject of a discrimination complaint.

In his initial complaint, Mr. Mohamud stated that a number of discriminatory workplace incidents arose between November 2010 and June 2011. Mr. Mohamud alleged, and the Commission found, that the following incidents occurred:

  • Mr. Mohamud greeted a friend using the Arabic salutation "Asalamu Aleykum" to which another employee stated "Don't you talk that shit language around here. This is Canada";
  • Mr. Mohamud protested directly to this employee that he felt terrible about the objection to a common greeting. Mr. Mohamud advised a shop supervisor of this interaction and was told by the supervisor to "give it a week";
  • The employee who made the "This is Canada" comment confronted Mr. Mohamud about talking to the supervisor and drew a circle in the mud and pointed to the middle of the circle while telling Mr. Mohamud "That's your job", implying that Mr. Mohamud was insignificant;
  • Mr. Mohamud heard the shop supervisor chide the employee in a joking manner and tell him "I'm going to get Liban after you";
  • Mr. Mohamud reported this occurrence to the Branch Manager and a meeting was convened where the company advised employees that it had no tolerance for discrimination. Mr. Mohamud reported this message was undone by the shop supervisor who stated that any joking around which might sound discriminatory was not a source of concern;
  • The employee who made the negative remarks to Mr. Mohamud and another employee were standing by suspended chains and one of them started either swinging from the chains or swinging them back and forth while making monkey noises directed at Mr. Mohamud; and
  • An employee mocked and stereotyped Mr. Mohamud as a black man from a ghetto by saying words to the effect of "Hey man, what's up y'all. Let's keep it professional", while the shop supervisor was present.

The Commission found that the actions of the shop workers and the apparent approbation of the shop supervisor were belittling and humiliating to Mr. Mohamud and that these actions were based on Mr. Mohamud's race, colour and religious beliefs. This created a poisoned work environment that Mr. Mohamud endured as a condition or term of his continued employment.

Canadian Dewatering did not argue the discriminatory conduct did not occur and did not offer a non-discriminatory explanation for it. Accordingly, a case of discrimination was established as the actions of Mr. Mohamud's co-workers and supervisor were "unacceptable, discriminatory conduct and not to be tolerated in any workplace".

Due to the repeated events which took place over a limited period of time, the Commission ordered that Canadian Dewatering pay $7,500.00 to Mr. Mohamud as a result of the injury to Mr. Mohamud's dignity.

With respect to the retaliation complaint, the Commission concluded that the evidence demonstrated Mr. Mohamud was terminated because of his unsatisfactory work performance and its impact on workplace safety and production. Accordingly, retaliation was not a factor in the decision to terminate and Mr. Mohamud's retaliation complaint was dismissed.

The Commission attributed liability to the employer due to the actions of a few employees and despite efforts by the employer to address the alleged harassment. However, the Commission found that the employer's efforts were largely undone by the actions of the shop supervisor who suggested that the negative conduct complained of was acceptable because it was a joke. Employers should take complaints of workplace harassment seriously and should ensure that a clear message is presented to all employees that harassment is not acceptable, even if the comments are intended to be a joke.

For more information on workplace harassment, toxic or poisoned workplaces, and an employer's obligations and best practices when a harassment complaint is made, join Field Law's Labour and Employment Group for a free seminar in either Edmonton or Calgary. For dates and registration information, please  click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions