A recent decision of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission¹ has clarified the extent of an employer’s obligation to provide its employees with a safe and respectful workplace. The decision – the first time the Human Rights Commission has considered a complaint of harassment on the basis of sexual orientation – is a powerful one, and is full of important takeaways for employers, employees, and workplace investigators alike.
In 2018, the Ontario human rights tribunal case A.B. v Joe Singer Shoes Limited received a lot of attention because of its high damages award – $200,000 for the Applicant’s pain and suffering from of over 20 years of sexual harassment by her boss, Mr. Singer. But when Mr. Singer sought judicial review of this decision, it was not the quantum of the damages that was at issue; it was the Vice-Chair’s assessment of the parties’ credibility. Since this was a “he said, she said” case – there were no direct witnesses to Mr. Singer’s conduct – the Vice-Chair determined that Mr. Singer had engaged in sexual harassment, even though he denied doing so, because she believed the Applicant (Ms. B.) and did not believe Mr. Singer.