British Columbia

Harassed and fired B.C. woman awarded $8K

B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal has awarded nearly $8,000 to a woman it says was sexually harassed by a co-worker and then fired for complaining.

B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal has awarded nearly $8,000 to a woman it says was sexually harassed by a co-worker and then fired for complaining.

Corina Soroka testified before the tribunal in August that co-worker Ian MacDonnell sent her sexually suggestive text messages and on one occasion took her to his private residence under the pretext of doing some work.

MacDonnell denied harassing the woman, and Dave Rouleau, the owner at Dave's Custom Metal Works Ltd. in Port Coquitlam, B.C., said Soroka was going to be laid off even before she raised the complaints.

But tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams said in his decision Wednesday it's unlikely Soroka's employment would have been terminated if she hadn't disclosed the sexual harassment.

Geiger-Adams awarded Soroka $2,912 in lost wages and $5,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.

Geiger-Adams said Soroka, who was 21 years old when she began working at the metal shop in June 2009, was discriminated against in three ways.

First, in July 2009, Geiger-Adams said MacDonnell obtained Soroka's private cellphone number through his workplace "to follow up on sexual and perhaps romantic interest," even though he knew Soroka was in a relationship.

Second, MacDonnell used his authority as Soroka's supervisor to take her away from the workplace and to his home, despite the fact he'd been reprimanded for the text messages by his employer.

Decision violated code

"Third, Mr. Rouleau decided to abruptly terminate Ms. Soroka's employment when he did in order to 'solve' the problem created for him by Mr. MacDonnell's conduct, and Ms. Soroka's complaints about that conduct," Geiger-Adams said in his ruling.

"He apparently reasoned that, even though Ms. Soroka was the victim of what he twice identified as Mr. MacDonnell's inappropriate conduct toward her, her employment was short-term, and it was easier to remove her from the workplace than deal further with the conduct of the perpetrator."

Geiger-Adams said that decision violated the province's Human Rights Code.

MacDonnell, who is more than twice Soroka's age, Rouleau, and Dave's Custom Metal Works Ltd. were ordered to split the awarded cost.

Geiger-Adams said he was impressed with Soroka's evidence, since she testified simply and without exaggeration. He was also complimentary of Rouleau's testimony.

However, Geiger-Adams said MacDonnell was "evasive" and "frequently failed to respond directly to the substance of her allegations," making his testimony less credible.

The metal shop was also ordered to make a copy of the tribunal's ruling available to each of its current employees.