PSAC secured an important victory this past week when the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that a member should be compensated for the sexual harassment and assault she experienced in her workplace.
The case involved a border services officer who had been continually sexually harassed by a co-worker since May 2008, which culminated in a sexual assault on August 2009. While the employer and the Board did not dispute that sexual harassment and assault did occur, the Board nevertheless decided that compensation for pain and suffering was not warranted despite clear evidence of significant emotional trauma
In its decision, the Board referred to the sexual assault as a “vulgar prank” and considered the reaction of the target of the assault as “extreme” and “grossly exaggerated.” The Board further maintained that because the victim was a “confident” employee she ought to have taken different steps in having the matter reported and resolved.
Thanks to the courage of the member who brought this case forward, PSAC successfully appealed the Board’s decision and received the positive ruling last week. The Federal Court of Appeal confirmed that there is an obligation to compensate victims of sexual harassment and violence, and further, that sexual assault survivors can be compensated for harm suffered regardless of whether the sexual assault was the sole cause of the harm.
“This is such an important victory for any victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The message is clear: the impact on workers should be taken seriously, and they should be compensated for their suffering,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward.
The Court was also very critical of the Board’s original decision for having perpetuated rape myths. The Court affirmed that there is no one typical response by victims to sexual assault, and further that the Board could not substitute its own concept of common sense in place of the actual evidence of pain and suffering.