Northwoods Inn & Suites Manager John Pontes fined for sexual harassment

The owner-manager of Saskatoon's Northwoods Inn & Suites, John Pontes, has been fined almost $45,000.

Human Rights Commission says fifth time John Pontes has violated code

John Pontes, owner-manager Saskatoon's Northwoods Inn & Suites, was fined for sexual harassment. (David Shield/CBC)

The owner-manager of a Saskatoon hotel has been fined almost $45,000.

The Court of Queen's Bench found that John Pontes, who owns Saskatoon's Northwoods Inn & Suites, sexually harassed a female hotel clerk in 2009.

The clerk said Pontes made sexually explicit comments to her for months, asking if she was a prostitute, and telling her she was "stressed out and needed a good lay."

The clerk also testified Pontes hugged and kissed her, even though she told him not to.

Eventually, the clerk told the judge she relapsed into drug use due to all the unwanted attention.

She quit her job and entered rehab. However, the clerk testified Pontes called her while she was staying at a clinic in Battleford. Pontes offered her the position of sales manager, saying she could earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. The clerk refused.

Justice Ysanne Wilkinson awarded the clerk $10,000 for injuries to feelings, dignity and self-respect. Pontes was also ordered to pay $31,900 for lost earnings, and $3,000 for "vexatious, frivolous and abusive conduct."

In a news release, David Arnot, Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said the case sets a significant legal precedent.

"The judgment is financially notable as the damages provided by the Code far exceed usual damages for wrongful dismissal," he said. "This is a clear message that egregious human rights violations will not be tolerated in the workplace."

According to the judgement, an investigator from the Commission said Pontes had broken the Human Rights Code four times before this.