Despite this, sexual harassment is still pervasive in our workplaces. Where managers and employers often get themselves into trouble is the area of sexual solicitation.
The Human Rights Code informs us that employees have a right to be free from advances in the workplace from those able to offer or deny a benefit – i.e. sexual propositions from a boss with the offer of a promotion are absolutely not permissible. This is true where the person making the proposition knows or should know that it is not welcome.
Examples of this type of behaviour – and the real consequences of it – are evident in Anderson v. Law Help ltd.
Safari Anderson started working for Law Help Ltd. as a paralegal. After some time, her boss starting asking her about her plans outside of work. He started with inquiring about what she was doing on Saturday night. He later asked her if she wanted to go clubbing with him. He asked whether she would like to “hang out” on the weekend or “go away together” for the weekend. He told her he was thinking about her and that liked her.
While the language used by her boss, Giuseppe Alessandro, was not overtly sexualized, it was not allowed. He told Ms. Anderson he would take care of her, implying that if she spent time with him, she would advance at work.
Mr. Giuseppe then punished Ms. Anderson for not going out with him. He stopped paying her. He treated her in a hostile manner. He yelled at her and refused to let her attend a medical appointment. Ms. Anderson ultimately had to resign.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario reviewed all of the evidence and found that Mr. Giuseppe’s advances breached the Code. It reiterated that persistent propositions can create a negative psychological and emotional work environment.
The Tribunal ordered Law Help Ltd. and Mr. Giuseppe to pay Ms. Anderson $22,000 for the injury to her dignity along with lost wages she incurred after quitting.
As an employer or manager, asking out a colleague or employee can be expensive, and not because of the cost of the date. Even where there are not sexual or gender-based comments, repeated advances of this nature are not allowed in Ontario’s workplaces. They affect people’s dignity and sense of value in their jobs.
As an employee, if you are facing this conduct, you do not have to tolerate it. Educate yourself on your rights under the Code. Speak to someone, perhaps another manager, human resources, or a human rights lawyer. There are steps you can take to stop the treatment, and you may have a legal case against the person making the advances.
If you would like to speak to a lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm, you can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.
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