An Ottawa bar manager has been found guilty of sexually assaulting an intoxicated 19-year-old female employee in a bathroom during a private event at the establishment in 2015.
The woman, a university student who was training to become a bartender at the downtown bar, had stumbled upstairs to vomit after midnight on Feb. 16, 2015. The manager, who was 30 at the time, followed her into the bathroom and performed sex acts on her without her consent, according to the judge's ruling, dated Nov. 16.
'The manipulation of a staff member through the combination of authority and intoxication is a dangerous and toxic mix.' - Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod
Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod ruled the woman was too drunk to consent to the sexual activity, and that the man, only identified as "M.D." in the written decision, had engaged in what he called "predatory" behaviour in the days leading up to the assault.
"He engaged in the worst kind of sexism, asking a female employee about nude photographs on her telephone, suggesting she need not wear underwear, sending her a bikini picture he had pulled from her Instagram account, asking to see her photographs and making other sexualized suggestions," wrote Justice MacLeod in his ruling.
"He took her underwear and left her alone on the floor of the bathroom," on the night of the assault, MacLeod noted.
'Flirty' behaviour common in bar business
The woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, acknowledged sometimes going along with the man's "flirty" behaviour, and told the court it was commonplace in the bar business.
The judge ruled the manager had also failed to protect the employee by allowing her to become severely drunk on the job, even though he was trained to identify severe intoxication.
The court ruling comes amid a broader conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace, especially in the restaurant industry.
The judge touched on that point when he noted that "the manipulation of a staff member through the combination of authority and intoxication is a dangerous and toxic mix."
Court heard the manager left the bathroom with the woman's phone and underwear, which contained his DNA in the form of saliva.
Manager testified sex was consensual
However the man painted a different picture when he took the stand. He testified it was the complainant who invited him to touch her in the bathroom, and said he believed the sex acts were consensual. He testified that he stopped when he noticed she was so drunk that it appeared she had "hit a wall," so he went downstairs to get her some water.
The man's defence lawyer, James Foord, raised multiple issues with the complainant's testimony, including how her phone had ended up in the man's hands. The complainant's credibility was also questioned because she had defied a court order in an unrelated matter.
But MacLeod ruled the bar manager's evidence was neither persuasive nor plausible.
Though there were some inconsistencies in the woman's testimony, he ruled she was an "unwavering" witness, and that Crown prosecutor Fara Rupert proved the case against the bar manager beyond reasonable doubt.
"There is no doubt there was an unwanted sexual act which is the essential element of the offence. I accept the evidence of the complainant that she did not initiate sexual contact and did not consent," MacLeod wrote.
A date for sentencing is yet to be scheduled.