The BC Human Rights Tribunal has found a Kelowna restaurant responsible for sexual harassment of a server by a manager.
The server, who will be referred to as the pseudonym Jane for privacy, alleges that she was fired as a result of the harassment.
Jane alleges that the manager manipulated the owners of Bouchons Bistro, owned by Gastronome Enterprises Ltd., into terminating her employment.
She alleges that she was forced to endure sexual comments, propositions for sex, sexual gestures, jokes and innuendos, sexual contact, exposure of genitals and sexual touching from 2017 until 2019, from John (name redacted) during her employment at Bouchons Bistro.
Jane alleges that the harassment began almost immediately after being hired at the restaurant in 2017. She said that the abuse escalated and became more vulgar after John was promoted to be her superior.
Initially, Jane filed a sexual harassment complaint against John. The case was settled out of court and Jane subsequently withdrew the complaint.
The harassment was not reported to the owners of Gastronome while it was happening.
Jane said that she did not report the abuse because John was responsible for her schedule and ability to make money. Additionally, she said that she did not want to seem unprofessional and feared being blamed or not believed.
She was fired in March of 2019, and the owners of the restaurant and Jane disagree about the cause of her termination.
According to Gastronome, the owner of the bistro fired Jane because she did not “follow the rules” concerning the cash float, tip-out pool, and due backs. The owner alleges that he did not know about the sexual harassment while Jane was employed. Jane disagrees and alleges that there were no concerns with her performance. She believes that John influenced the owner into firing her.
The judge for the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Jane’s termination was not related to the harassment.
After being fired, Jane told the owners about the abuse. The owners then contacted various current and past employees and asked about Jane’s sexual history, including whether she had slept with John.
The owner did not take any steps to find out how Jane was affected by the sexual harassment or to see if she needed any support.
At the time of the abuse, Gastronome had no policy, complaint mechanism, or training in place regarding discrimination or sexual harassment.
The judge found Gastronome liable for John’s conduct and ordered the business to make remedial orders, including an award of $25,000 for the injury Jane suffered to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect. She will also receive $70 for expenses related to the case. The judge ruled that the sexual harassment was not a factor in Jane’s termination.
John was not reprimanded by Gastronome because he quit without notice before the owner became aware of the harassment.
The owner alleges that he took prompt action to implement a policy in the workplace aimed at preventing similar conduct in the future.
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