Blog Post #488 – Harassment Spurs Award

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Vancouver – A British Columbia woman has been awarded $8,000 after the Vancouver-based BC Human Rights Tribunal determined her complaint of sexual harassment by a co-worker played a role in her termination.

In his September 15, 2010 ruling, tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams ordered Dave’s Custom Metal Works Ltd. In Port Coquitlam, British Columbia to pay Corina Saroka about $2,900 in lost wages and $5,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. The employer must also provide each current employee with a copy of the ruling.

Soroka was terminated in September, 2009 after she complained to plant owner Dave Rouleau about an earlier incident in which supervisor Ian MacDonnell took her to his home to discuss a previous event. That first incident occurred on July 28, 2009, one day after Soroka took time off work because of a crushed finger she suffered while cutting metal.

MacDonnell subsequently called Soroka, and the two employees exchanged more than two dozen sexually explicit themed text messages. Rouleau later issued a verbal disciplinary warning to MacDonnell. As well, the supervisor received a disciplinary warning for insubordination on the day that Soroka was fired.

“I accept that, on the one hand, [MacDonnell] wanted to make things right with Ms. Soroka so that they could continue to work together, but that, on the other hand, he continued to press her, against her expressly stated wishes and feelings, to accept that his interest in her was understandable and even justified.” Geiger-Adams writes. He “did so in a setting that he had engineered by using his authority to direct her work — one in which she was isolated and vulnerable.”

Geiger-Adams found that the employer had discriminated against the worker as a result of MacDonnell using his access, through his employment, To Soroka’s cellphone number; MacDonnell using his authority as a supervisor to take Soroka away from the workplace to his home, where he engaged in further threats, interference and inappropriate behaviour; and Rouleau deciding to terminate Soroka’s employment as a means of solving the problem created for him by MacDonnell.

My opinion

This judgment came out in September, 2010 and was very light dealing with harassment issues in the BC workplace. $7,900 was a terrible price to pay to work at this place of employment. I do hope a lawsuit was going to come out of all this. Her dignity HAS to be worth more than $7,900!

Ontario has added sections 32.0.1 to 32.0.7 inclusive, dealing with violence and harassment in the workplace.

I have witnessed a few incidents on the matter and the MOL is having a difficult time dealing with it. I had a situation reported to me recently and I gave the advice to call the MOL hotline number. A MOL inspector was dispatched but NOT to the satisfaction of the employee. The yelling supervisor is still there and all the people involved were not interviewed. The full extent of the issue seems to be swept under the rug. I was so disappointed. How can any further advice be given if enforcement will not follow?

I had another instance where a member of the JHSC was let go when he tried to make safety changes at his workplace. The Plant Manager dominated the committee and squashed any decisions made by the committee. I contacted the MOL and they went over to this employer, but at the end of the day, the worker is still out of work and self-employed. He is not a fan of the enforcement division.

Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Violence and Harassment in the Workplace’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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