In this recent case, a long-time employee (thirty years) was justifiably terminated, without severance, for an isolated incident of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The employee had no prior disciplinary record during his long tenure.
The employee had slapped his female co-worker on the buttocks, in the presence of others.
The employee did not apologize, or even feign remorse.
The employee was aware of the employer’s anti-harassment workplace policy and he also held a supervisory position over the affected female co-worker.
The employer terminated the offending employee summarily.
He sued for wrongful termination, alleging the punishment was too severe for the crime, effectively.
The Court upheld the termination, for cause.
The Court held:
[The employee’s conduct] …was an act that attacked her dignity and self-respect. This type of conduct is unacceptable in today’s workplace.”
The lesson? The Court is no longer tolerable of any sexually charged misconduct in the workplace, even if it seems innocent or not serious to anyone involved.
Interestingly, the Court granted the target female co-worker limited rights to participate in the case and the trial, which is fairly uncommon in wrongful dismissal cases. The Court concluded that the complainant’s rights, integrity and reputation may be affected, thereby given her the authority to have “intervenor” status in the case.
Render v. ThyssenKrupp Elevator (Canada) Limited, 2019 ONSC 7460.