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Employers can be held liable for significant damages relating to sexual harassment.  A recent case from the Ontario Court of Appeal – Doyle v Zochem Inc (2017 ONCA 130) – is an important reminder of the potential liability relating to this issue in the employment relationship.

In this case the employee was sexually harassed on several instances by her manager. The employer subsequently met with the employee to terminate her employment.  The employee proceeded to raise allegations of sexual harassment.

Although the employer considered the matter, it did not conduct a thorough investigation. For example, the company did not provide the complainant with an opportunity to respond to the interview conducted with the manager who was the subject of the complaint.

In addition to compensation for notice of termination, the trial judge held that the employer was liable to compensate the former employee with $60,000.00 as “moral” damages because of the way she was treated, both through the harassment and what the court deemed was an inadequate response to the complaint.  The court also awarded $25,000.00 as recognition by the court that the employee’s human rights had been violated, namely the right to not be sexually harassed.

On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the award.  The Ontario Court of Appeal specifically found that the award was reasonable given the way the employer acted in not taking the complaint seriously and in treating the employee in an insensitive manner.

The case is a reminder that courts are increasingly prepared to provide significant awards in cases where an employer is found to have treated an employee unfairly, both in any act of harassment and when the employer’s response to any related claim is considered inadequate and/or insensitive.


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