Providing a discrimination-free workplace is very important.

This recent case illustrates the importance of doing so: O.P.T. and M.P.T. v. Presteve Foods Ltd. and Jose Pratas 2015 HRTO 675.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal held these two sisters, temporary foreign workers, endured unwanted sexual solicitation, advances and discrimination at the workplace.

There is a trend emerging in Ontario – increasingly higher damages are being awarded by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

The facts are disturbing, of course. They involve very sexually-charged and unacceptable conduct in the workplace.

The Tribunal awarded:

General Damages – One sister was awarded $150,000 as compensation for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect (also known as general damages) along with approximately $15,000 in prejudgment interest. This amount is three times greater than what previously had been the highest award awarded by the Tribunal. The other sister was awarded $50,000 in general damages along with approximately $5,000 in prejudgment interest.

The lesson for employers – You must promote and achieve a discrimination-free workplace. Understanding discrimination and harassment issues is essential, along with a good policy for this, which includes a complaint mechanism and training for everyone in the workplace. Training, communicating and understanding of the policy is also critical – for everyone in the workplace. The law in Ontario will not excuse ignorance or overlooking it.

This WARDS PC BLAWG is for general information only. It is not legal advice, or intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your circumstances.

Ontario Human Rights Commission

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