Updated: Aug 11
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ("HRTO") has awarded $40,000 in compensation to a woman due to workplace sexual harassment she experienced at the Eat More Restaurant in Mississauga.
The HRTO found that the Applicant's co-worker, Zaheer Abbas, committed unwanted sexual advances, physical touching, sexualized comments, sexual innuendo, exposed himself naked, interfered with the women’s washroom while she used it (which he unlocked with a knife), and watched pornographic videos over a speaker system in the workplace.
The applicant, who was in her 20s, worked at the restaurant as a dishwasher, food runner, server, and bartender. However, she was fired after filing a complaint with the police about the sexual harassment that she was experiencing at the restaurant. Prior to that termination, she had no performance issues and was even offered a promotion within the restaurant.
The woman's lawyer, Ivanna Iwasykiw, said that this case is an example that sexual harassment complaints made to the HRTO are not taken lightly.
"...despite my client reporting this conduct to her manager and one of the owners, the employer did not take steps to stop the harassment and protect her."
The restaurant operated through a numbered corporation identified as "1865898 Ontario Inc.". The directors and owners who were found to have failed to protect the woman were Ashfaq Malik (a.k.a. Ashfaq Ahmad) and Waheed Malik. Despite having received reports from the head chef about what was happening to the Applicant, Mr. Waheed Malik did not take any action and made excuses that the restaurant was short-staffed. The staff shortage appeared to be more of a priority to him than the complaints of sexual harassment.
The perpetrator, Zaheer Abbas, was fired for unrelated reasons near the end of 2016 or early 2017 for showing a knife to another person with whom he had a clash. Despite that incident, Mr. Abbas was rehired in July 2017.
In holding both Mr. Abbas and the restaurant jointly responsible for the violation of the Applicant's human rights, the Tribunal stated, "I find the corporate respondent is vicariously liable because it was made aware of the applicant’s allegations that she was being sexually harassed by the personal respondent but, as discussed above, did not appropriately address her complaint and did not take steps to prevent further harassment, subjecting her to a poisoned work environment which is contrary to section 5(1) of the Code. The poisoned work environment was a factor in her termination, which I found was reprisal under section 8 of the Code. Given these circumstances I find the corporate respondent vicariously responsible."
A full text of the Tribunal's decision can be read by clicking here.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault in Ontario, and you would like to speak with a lawyer, you can book a free telephone call by clicking here.