Making a complaint of workplace sexual harassment can be daunting. If the actual harassment itself is not bad enough, employees often fear job-based retaliation for speaking out, or that making matters public might undermine their professional reputation.
Since allegations related to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein first became public, the #metoo movement has provided a catalyst for society to confront its handling of sexual harassment. Just this week, the latest public figure to be embroiled in such allegations is Steve Paikin, a prominent journalist employed by the provincially-funded broadcaster TVOntario (“TVO”).
Q&A is a recurring series on the Vey Willetts LLP blog. The aim is to provide quick answers to questions we commonly encounter in our day-to-day practice of employment law. In this edition, we focus on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Vey Willetts lawyer Paul Willetts was quoted in the October 10, 2017 edition of The Lawyer's Daily. The article, "Timing, Privacy Issues Raised over Ontario's Proposed Domestic Violence Leave Bill," considers recent proposed legislation that seeks to provide employees with up to 10 days of paid leave, and up to 15 weeks of unpaid leave per year to deal with issues arising from episodes of domestic or sexual violence.
On May 22, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario awarded what is one of its largest damages awards to date. The facts that precipitated this result are both atrocious and a poignant reminder that sexual violence and harassment still persists in the workplace.
The case in question, O.P.T. v. Presteve Foods Ltd., involved O.P.T & M.P.T. - two sisters who came to Ontario from Mexico as temporary foreign workers to labour at a fish processing plant in Wheatley. In addition to bringing an application against the company, the sisters also named Mr. Jose Pratas, the owner of Presteve, as a personal respondent.