The Yukon Human Rights Commission is recommending the owner of a now-closed Riverdale daycare pay over $10,000 to two former employees who claim their supervisor sexually harassed them.
In March 2012, Willow Lacosse and Jessica Dyck filed human rights complaints against Childhood Discoveries Preschool, owned by Christina Hassard. Both women were fired from the daycare in January 2012.
The women allege that their supervisor, Mike Gustus, made sexually inappropriate comments that made it hard to work there, and that Gustus’s close friendship with Hassard made it hard to complain.
When the women started to show their discomfort with Gutstus’s comments, they were fired, they allege. Hassard didn’t do anything to stop the harassment, they further allege.
The Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication held a hearing about the complaint in early March.
In closing statements filed late last month, the commission recommended each woman be paid $5,000 for injury to their “dignity, feelings and self-respect.” The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized sexual innuendo as a subtle form of sexual harassment, and not all employees need to consider a statement to be offensive for it be counted as harassment, the statement says.
The commission also recommended that Hassard pay Lacosse three months’ wages. She didn’t find another job until May.
Dyck was hired for a casual position at the Canada Games Centre two to three weeks after leaving Childhood Discoveries Preschool. The commission recommends Hassard pay Dyck two weeks’ wages as well as the difference between her wages at the daycare and the Canada Games Centre for two weeks.
Hassard should have known Lacosse and Dyck found Gustus’s comments inappropriate, the commission said. Neither Lacosse nor Dyck directly told Hassard they found Gustus’s comments to be sexually offensive, they said in their testimony last month.
They told Hassard they thought employees should use more professional language at work, but they never explicitly complained about Gustus’s sexual innuendo. Instead, they rolled their eyes, tried to avoid contact with Gustus or said he was “gross.”
Hassard didn’t know the women felt they were being sexually harassed, she testified last month. Lacosse never told Hassard she thought Gustus was sexually harassing her until just before Lacosse was fired, she said.
But avoiding Gustus and not responding to his jokes showed Lacosse and Dyck were uncomfortable, the commission’s statement says. Other human rights tribunals have found that complainants don’t need to prove they verbally objected to sexual comments. Proving they walked away or simply didn’t respond to the comments shows they did not consent to them, the statement says.
After Hassard learned about the harassment, she could have written a policy about sexual harassment clarifying whom employees could talk to if they felt they were being sexually harassed, the commission’s statement says. Hassard could have also informed her employees of the policy and offered Lacosse her job back, the statement says.
But many of Lacosse’s and Dyck’s claims are “in part fictitious and vexatious,” Hassard said in her closing statement. Only Lacosse, Dyck and Gustus witnessed several of the alleged incidents, her statement says.
After Lacosse left, Hassard created a general conflict resolution policy that all staff read and signed, her statement says. And Gustus asked all the co-workers if they felt his comments were harassment. Hassard also asked in a staff meeting if anyone found Gustus’s behaviour inappropriate. No one said they did, her statement says.
The board was to hear oral responses to the statements on March 28. This has been re-scheduled to the end of this month or early May. After that, the board has a month to make its final decision.
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