Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
When Jesse was offered the job working for a financial planner she was thrilled. She would be contacting potential clients to book appointments. She was a little concerned when she learned that the financial planner worked out of his house and that she would be too. She had been told that the office she would be working in would be separate and in the basement and it turned out that it was a desk with a phone in the corner of a kitchen/Livingroom. When she showed up the new boss assured her that she would be eventually moved to the basement and that he would be hiring another employee.
During her half hour lunch the boss would come out of his office at the back of the house and chat with her. He seemed easy to get along with and asked her polite questions about her children and talked about the funny things that people has said during his day.
Things shifted in the second week. He started asking about her marital status and she said she had a boyfriend. She told him that she did not want to talk about her personal life at work because she was a very private person.
He gave her keys to the house and asked her to come in the side door and if she didn’t hear anything from the back of the house to come into his bedroom and wake him up. Then he started pacing around her, staring at her body, eyes and breasts. He would look her up and down and smirk. He told her he was trying to help her overcome her shyness. All it did was make her freeze as she did not know what to do. Later that week he asked her to role play. He wanted her to stand in front of him, stare at him, flirt with him and sexually fantasize about how she would pick him up in a bar. Again, this was a method of overcoming her shyness, apparently. She refused but he insisted, she humored him. It made her feel self-conscious and vulnerable.
When he asked her to seal some envelopes, standing inches away from her and leaning down to her face, he said she would enjoy licking them because it looked like she liked licking. She laughed but considered walking out at the time but was afraid of her losing her job.
At the end of the second week he asked her to take a break from work and have a drink of vodka with him. She refused. He persisted. She had one drink but he kept pouring more. When he put on music and sat his chair within inches of her she started to feel panicky. He grabbed her and tried to get her to dance with him. She sat down. His response was to sit even closer to her. That’s when he grabbed her breasts. When she moved away he grabbed her face and started to kiss her. He then picked her up and carried her down the hallway towards his bedroom. He laid her down on his bed and started touching her breasts and her private parts. He tried to get on top of her and she tried to push him off. She felt sick to her stomach. He exposed himself to her while she was trying to push him away. When he walked away giving her a break she texted her neighbor asking her to call Jesse’s cell phone posing as the manager of Jesse’s daughter’s daycare. She felt if she simply tried to run away on the quiet street where the boss lived, he might follow her and get violent, she felt dizzy from the drink.
He came back and tried to ply her with more drinks but her neighbour came through with the call telling her that her daughter was sick and she needed to pick her up. She left never to return. She called the police that night and he was eventually convicted of sexual assault and forcible confinement.
As well as charging her boss Jesse brought a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against him for discrimination in her employment on the basis of her gender and harassment. She was awarded $45,000.00 for the injuries to her dignity, feelings and self-respect and some lost wages.
Fifteen years ago I would have told you that most Jesse could have expected was $20,000.00 or somewhere in that neighbourhood. Awards for general damages are on the rise. Jesse’s case was extreme. It was not only harassment it was criminal behavior. It is comforting however, to start to see the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal make more significant awards in favour of the people who have been traumatized in the workplace by discrimination.
I hope Jesse was able to collect.