Teenage Intern Awarded $75,000 for Sexual Harassment

Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
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A recent decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has awarded a teenager employed as an unpaid intern at a tattoo parlour the sum of $75,000 in compensatory damages for sexual harassment.

The owner of the business had pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the same conduct.

The only issue was the amount of damages to be ordered as compensation for injured feelings. The owner, his wife and the victim’s parents were all good friends. The owner had actually borrowed money from the victim’s parents to open the business.

There was a clear violation of a position of trust, dealing with a vulnerable 15-year-old teenager working in her first position of employment. The sexually offensive conduct was infrequent, but involved inappropriate sexual touching and sexual solicitation. The applicant clearly suffered emotionally from the abuse.

Review of Damage Awards

The decision provides a good review of the range of sums which have been ordered by the Tribunal to persons who have suffered workplace sexual harassment. The highest award remains the recent decision ordering $200,000 to a woman who had suffered sexual abuse over an extended time period. A comparable award of $150,000 was awarded to a Mexican immigrant employed as a seasonal farm worker. She was dependent on the employer for a residence, employment and the ability to remain in Canada.

These latter two decisions involve unusual and dramatic facts. The most recent decision involving the teenage intern is reflective of a fact situation which is more prevalent in modern society. The typical range expected of such a case has tended to be in the area of $25,000 to $50,000.

This recent case is illustrative of the progress of the Tribunal in setting awards that provide realistic financial compensation.

Just as was the case in the above decisions, the Tribunal found the owner was the directing mind of the business and ordered the sum to be paid by the owner personally and the business.

Let Advice Guide Your Actions

Counsel for victims in this context often struggle with whether the remedy should be by civil action or by the human rights process. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages of each process.

The human rights process offers no discovery, no costs are ordered, and there can be no punitive damages. A civil action can be more complex. Damage sums at one time were noticeably higher. It does allow for costs to be recovered but can also require the plaintiff to pay costs in certain situations. Legal counsel is required to explain and understand the pros and cons of each option.

Get Advice and Know Your Rights

Get advice. Know your rights. Contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation