In an unprecedented decision from last May (and worth discussing
again), the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (the
Tribunal) awarded a migrant worker $150,000 in
compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect
under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) as
a result of sexual harassment and reprisal at the hands of her
employer's principal and owner, Presteve Foods (the
The migrant worker came to Ontario along with her sister to work
under the Federal government's temporary foreign worker program
for low-skill occupations. During their employment, the employer
subjected the workers to unwanted sexual solicitations and
advances, a sexually poisoned work environment, discrimination in
respect of employment (on the basis of sex) and reprisal,
threatening to repatriate the workers if they did not comply with
his requests. In addition to the workers' complaints to the
Tribunal, the employer was charged criminally, to which he pled or
was found guilty of assault.
In finding that the employer violated various sections of the
Code and in determining the appropriate amount of compensation, the
Tribunal emphasized a migrant worker's particular vulnerability
in the employer-employee relationship; namely, an employer's
ability to repatriate the worker with no chance of appeal or
review. This, combined with the Employer's egregious conduct
towards the one migrant worker (which included various instances of
sexual assault), warranted an unprecedented compensation award of
$150,000. The employer and personal respondent were held jointly
and severally liable for the violations of the Code and
Written with the assistance of Nader Hasan, articling
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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