Sexual Harassment: Employer Challenges Claim of Worker

Is Just Cause the “Capital Punishment” of Employment Law?

Just cause is widely known as the “capital punishment” of employment law, and it shows from the high threshold required to prove it. The British Columbia Court of Appeal continues to demonstrate that in Café La Foret Ltd v Cho, 2023 BCCA 354. The Head Baker was found to have sexually harassed a younger associate by, without consent, applying a light tap to her shoulder and a pat to her upper back in the context of discussing a therapeutic massage he received, and later, lightly tapping her in the buttock area when discussing his lower back pain.

Does Age Matter in Assessing sexual harassment?

However, this did not rise to the level of just cause. The Court held that it was appropriate to consider the employee’s age in determining whether he deserved a warning or opportunity to respond. This was especially because, though all sexual harassment is serious, these incidents were on the lower end of the spectrum.

The Court of Appeal, though it removed the punitive damages aspect, maintained the amount of damages in the form of aggravated damages. The employer tried to coerce the employee into signing a self-incriminating affidavit in exchange for the Record of Employment he had an unconditional right to receive. As well, the affidavit required that he not have any contact at all with female staff, making the employer’s willingness to remediate the employment relationship disingenuous.

Suffice it to say, the circumstances of each case must be looked at carefully, including the employer’s response to workplace harassment complaints.

While provincially regulated employers do not require just cause to terminate employment for non-discriminatory reasons, they must still ensure the employee is given proper notice or pay in lieu. Even if you are terminated following workplace harassment complaints, you could still have a right to a severance package.

Whitten & Lublin: Your Ally in Employment Legal Matters

If you find yourself in this situation, an experienced employment lawyer can help you figure out your options. If you would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

Author – Sohrab Naderi