Comments Denigrating Sexuality Are Sexual Harassment

Shaw v. Levac Supply Ltd. (1990), 14 C.H.R.R. D/36 (Ont. Bd.Inq.)

The Board of Inquiry finds that Carol Shaw was sexually harassed by a co-worker and that her employer is liable for the harassment.

Carol Shaw was harassed over a period of fourteen years by a co-worker who constantly criticized her work, denigrated her sexuality and degraded her as a woman. The Board of Inquiry finds that the most common understanding of sexual harassment is conduct such as making passes, soliciting sexual favours, sexual touching and the like. However, it finds that conduct which denigrates a woman's sexuality or vexatious conduct which is directed at a woman because of her sex also constitutes sexual harassment.

In this case, Carol Shaw was subjected to constant negative comment on her person and her performance by a co-worker. Herb Robertson made fun of the way Ms. Shaw walked and of her figure by saying "waddle, waddle" when she walked by, or "swish, swish" to imitate the sound of her nylons rubbing against each other. He called her a "fat cow" to another employee and made remarks which indicated that he believed that women should be at home looking after their children, as his wife was.

The Board of Inquiry finds that Carol Shaw brought Herb Robertson's behaviour to the attention of Roger Levac, who was in charge of operations for the company, on a number of occasions over the course of her employment. Mr. Levac did nothing effective to stop it and Ms. Shaw left her employment with Levac Supply.

The Board finds Herb Robertson, Roger Levac and Levac Supply Ltd. jointly and severally liable for the losses arising from Ms. Shaw's harassment. It orders the respondents to pay Ms. Shaw $43,273 in compensation for lost wages, as well as $5,000 in general damages.

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