June 24, 2014

Managers and executives sent for human rights harassment education

A human rights adjudicator, appointed by the Government, has found that a troubled young man was sexually harassed by a female supervisor.

In a recent decision Adjudicator Lawrence Pinsky referred to the lack of action once the harassment was reported, as “anemic and inappropriate efforts to address the harassment.” At the time the young man was 21 years old while his harasser was 41.

The employee who was the subject of the harassment had past drug and alcohol problems and is currently incarcerated for multiple break and enters. He described himself to Adjudicator Pinsky as “a person whose name was not synonymous with truth.” Adjudicator Pinsky found that although Jason Walmsley was dishonest in some aspects of his life, the fact that he was sexually harassed was not one of them.

In his decision he wrote, that “...Mr. Walmsley was harassed as defined by the Code, and that Mr. Walmsley's employer knowingly permitted or failed to take reasonable steps to terminate the harassment...”

As for remedy, Adjudicator Pinsky decided that the harasser, as well as all the managers, assistant managers and executives employed by Brouseau Bros. Ltd. operating as Super Lube and the President were required to attend an educational seminar dealing with harassment in the workplace within three months. Also a policy dealing with harassment generally and sexual harassment in particular, would need to be written and approved by the Human Rights Commission within the same time period.

He did not however award lost wages and although he did award $3500, which he admitted was on the lower end of the scale, to Mr. Waslmsley, for damages to dignity, feelings or self-respect, he then ordered that this amount be offset as he found that Mr. Walmsley himself was liable for some costs to the respondent.

This case affirms the recognition that everyone including individuals with problems are protected from sexual harassment under The Human Rights Code.

“It is important to recognize that discrimination can take place whether the subject of that discrimination is vulnerable or strong. Protections from sexual harassment exist even if you are a troubled person,” says Yvonne Peters Chairperson of the Manitoba Human Rights Board of Commissioners. “We are however, somewhat perplexed as to why the damage award was used to offset costs to the company that had little to do with sexual harassment.”

The staff of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission receives, mediates and investigates complaints of discrimination as outlined in the Human Rights code. The Board of Commissioners decides, after reviewing the investigative report, whether or not there is enough evidence to take the complaint forward and let an independent Adjudicator make a decision. Counsel for the Human Rights Commission then presents the case in the public interest to an independent adjudicator, appointed by the Government of Manitoba.

The complete decision can be found on the Commissions website.

For further information please contact

Patricia Knipe
Communications Director
Manitoba Human Rights Commission
204-945-5112
Patricia.knipe@gov.mb.ca