Published on April 26, 2013 by Donna Seale
A Manitoba Human Rights Adjudicator has concluded that Scott Tackaberry, operating as Grape & Grain, a wine and beer making retailer in Winnipeg, failed to take reasonable steps to stop one of his frequent customers from sexually harassing Emily Garland, a young, female employee of the business. When Ms. Garland first brought her concerns about the customer’s behavior to Mr. Tackaberry’s attention, Mr. Tackaberry was found by the Adjudicator to have responded in a reasonable way by cautioning the customer and urging him to keep his distance from the employee. However, after assessing all of the evidence including making determinations regarding the credibility of the female employee, the business owner and the customer, the Adjudicator concluded that the sexual harassment persisted and although Ms. Garland continued to complain to her employer nothing further was done to protect her. Rather, Ms. Garland was fired from her job.
Noting that the sexual harassment endured by the employee was a “grievous indignity”, taking into account the length of time it was allowed to persist unchecked and considering the female employee’s relative young age which the Adjudicator found to have made her especially vulnerable to the “abhorrent inappropriateness of a middle-aged customer”, the Adjudicator went on to award Ms. Garland $7,750.00 in damages to her dignity, feelings and self-respect. As reported by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, this is the highest general damage award ever handed down by a human rights adjudicator in Manitoba. In addition to the monetary award, the Adjudicator ordered the business owner to attend a workshop on harassment in the workplace and to provide to new and future employees the business’ harassment prevention policy.
While harassment provisions in human rights legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions have been previously interpreted to require businesses to protect their employees from sexual harassment by third parties such as customers, the Garland decision is the first opportunity Manitoba’s Human Rights Board of Adjudication has had to specifically spell this out for Manitoba employers.
Published on October 15, 2012 by Donna Seale
Recently, I blogged about the recommendations for made-in-Manitoba Accessibility Legislation brought forward by the Manitoba Accessibility Advisory Council. I also noted that the Minister of Family Services and Labor had requested public input in response to the recommendations.
One organization that has responded to the Minister’s request is Barrier-Free Manitoba, a self-described “non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative” formed in 2008 with the purpose of securing “strong and effective accessibility-rights legislation in Manitoba” for persons with disabilities.
In response to the Accessibility Advisory Council’s recommendations, Barrier-Free Manitoba has issued the following, which they were kind enough to bring to my attention:
-Position Paper (BFM Position Paper)
-Executive Summary (Stronger Measures Essential ES Final )
Although Barrier-Free Manitoba believes that the Accessibility Advisory Council’s recommendations represent a positive first step towards the enactment of accessibility legislation in our province, its general position is that the recommendations fall short in five main areas:
• There is no definite target date to achieve full accessibility in Manitoba;
• More effective penalties for non-compliance need to be incorporated;
• There needs to be inclusive and proactive public sector leadership;
•Any accessibility legislation developed needs to incorporate greater transparency and accountability;
• There needs to be early and meaningful progress on implementation.
For more information on Barrier-Free Manitoba’s call for the Province to develop legislation that it would view as meeting the goal of true inclusivity for persons with disabilities in Manitoba, head to its website where you can read more. They also have an online petition you can sign.
And, remember, if you have any thoughts on the Manitoba Accessibility Advisory Council’s recommendations, the deadline for submissions is this Sunday, October 21, 2012.