Supreme Court expands on harassment decision

The Supreme Court of Yukon has upheld a ruling by human rights adjudicators who found a local businessman had sexually harassed one of his teenage employees.

The Supreme Court of Yukon has upheld a ruling by human rights adjudicators who found a local businessman had sexually harassed one of his teenage employees.

The court added $5,000 in compensation that Mark Hureau must pay Devon Hanson for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.

Justice Ron Veale ruled the adjudicators made a mistake when they originally chose not to award compensation to Hanson.

The board found that the harassment Hanson suffered was at the “most mild end of the spectrum.”

Hureau was ordered to pay Hanson three months in lost wages

But it found that no other monetary consequences were necessary. The board said a ruling of discrimination was enough a consequence for Hureau and would serve as an appropriate warning for other businesses.

But Veale disagreed. He said the harassment was not mild enough to warrant no compensation for damages.

He noted that Hanson quit her job and, for a brief time, saw a counsellor.

“There is a danger in trivializing the awards for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect for sexual harassment,” the judge said.

“Psychological injuries are just as serious as physical injuries and often are more difficult to remedy and make the subject whole again.”

The case centred on inappropriate texts and emails from 2010.

At the time Hanson was 18 and Hureau was in his 40s. He was her basketball coach and boss at her part-time job.

Both sides appealed the original decision by the adjudicators.

Hureau took issue with the finding of sexual harassment but lost his appeal on all 10 of his points.

Veale pointed out early in his decision that appeals of this kind need to be based only on points of law. Many of Hureau’s arguments did not qualify, he said.

Aside from the question of compensation, the Yukon Human Rights Commission successfully cross-appealed the board of adjudication’s decision on the issues of employer liability.

The court decided that the company, Intersport, was liable for the harassment.

The commission said the decision is important.

“This decision is significant because it provides future guidance to the board of adjudication on the remedial nature of awards for injury to dignity, as has long been understood and applied by human rights tribunals across the country, if not always here in Yukon,” lawyer Colleen Harrington said in a statement.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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