Case Studies In Workplace Violence & Harassment Compliance Failure
Case Study #1
A woman was hired as a door-to-door salesperson for an alarm system company. She was subject to ongoing and persistent harassment from her manager on the basis of sex for over a year. This included the manager asking her what kind of underwear she was wearing; commenting that when she crossed her arms she was hiding her chest from him; and referring to her pop drink as ‘cotton panties.’ The manager also asked the her whether she wanted to go to a hotel room for her birthday and on several occasions while at the office, invited her to sit on his lap. In another incident, her manager stated he was “going to jump” on her, and asked her to have sex with him.
She repeatedly requested that her manager to cease his harassing behavior and sexual solicitations. In response, her manager told her that when she became the Branch Manager, “she could harass people too”. When she complained to the corporate Respondent, she was told she was “being let go” two days later. The corporate Respondent then rescinded its termination of her, but advised her that she would have to continue to work alongside the personal Respondent Manager who was sexually harassing her.
At the hearing, the Respondent attempted to limit its liability by arguing that it was not aware of the her complaint and because of her purported failure to make a complaint under the employer’s anti-harassment policy and procedure. This argument was rejected by the adjudicator who expressed a serious concern with the Respondent employer’s failure to investigate the complaint altogether. The HRTO held that the reasonableness of an employer’s response to a complaint of workplace harassment will be determined with reference to an employer’s own internal harassment policy. The adjudicator found against the employer based on the following criteria:
1. There is an obligation of promptness in dealing with a harassment complaint.
2. The company is aware that sexual harassment is prohibited conduct.
3. The company must deal with the issue seriously.
4. The company must demonstrate that there is a complaint mechanism in place
5. The company has an obligation to provide a healthy work environment.
6. There is an obligation for management to communicate its actions to a complainant.
She was awarded damages of $18,000 against the company and manager and an additional $5,000 against company for its failure to investigate.
Case Study #2
A trucking firm promoted an employee to manager. The new manager immediately started sexually harassing the firm’s female drivers. The drivers complained and the company fired the manager. The manager sued for wrongful dismissal and won the case. The judge had found that the manager was correct in pointing out:
- The company had no policy in place regarding harassment;
- The company did not conduct a proper investigation to hear the manager’s side of the story;
- The manager was not trained on what was the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.