Textual harassment” – text messages that are sent for the purposes of intimidation or harassment.   It started off as colloquial, but has made its way into the realm of employment law; most recently, by a store owner whose wife probably isn’t too happy about his adultery being broadcasted over the internet.  In last week’s Metro article, Daniel Lublin illustrates why workplace trysts can be tricky business.
Two weeks into her new job, Lisa McIntosh caught the eye of store owner, Zbigniew Augustynowicz.  He asked her out for drinks and shortly after, they began dating.  When McIntosh discovered that Augustynowicz was still married, she called it quits, but Augustynowicz was not ready to let it go.  He continued to harass McIntire through text messages, calling her a “bitch” and asking if she had “any horny girlfriends”.  McIntire asked Augustynowicz to stop and even threatened to call the police.  When she informed the company that she would be taking stress leave, they told her she would have to be replaced.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal easily dismissed Augustynowicz’ defence that McIntosh was both a “willing participant” and a “workplace flirt” – two claims that as Lublin points out, “represent excuses rather than valid legal defences.”
Unlike casual flirting at the office, harassing text messages can be very easily traced.  A recent case from Florida allowed a woman to serve a subpoena to a cell phone provider to track down an unsolicited, harassing text message.  Those who decide to partake in workplace trysts should be well aware that although they may alter an employment relationship, the courts are still able to evaluate employment as exclusive from the personal relationships that may accompany it.

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