CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY SEX DISCRIMINATION CASE HEADS TO MEDIATION
Montreal, February 9, 2017 — The sex harassment case involving a former part-time employee at Concordia’s Campus Retail Stores who worked there for two and a half years will proceed to mediation in the next few weeks, as the parties have voluntarily accepted to participate in the process at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
Last summer, CRARR filed on behalf of “Felicia” a civil rights complaint against the university, her former manager, and the male co-worker, for having exposed her to continuous sexual and gender-based harassment, for failing to act with diligence to protect her from discrimination and harassment at work, and for having terminated her part-time job once she complained about the harassment.
With the arrival of a new male employee in Fall 2015, Felicia experienced both explicit and subtle acts of harassment, including derogatory comments that belittled her capabilities as a woman and her physical appearance. There were also unwelcome jokes and questions about Felicia’s sexual history and her female friend’s virginity, and hurtful language aimed at her in the workplace, which created a toxic work environment.
Over a period of three months, Felicia regularly experienced the negative effects of gender-based harassment on her mental health, self-esteem, and academic performance.
When she brought the issue to her supervisor, the latter’s reaction was superficial; instead of finding effective solutions, the supervisor terminated Felicia’s part-time employment on the ground of scheduling difficulty. After losing her job and seeing the University’s problematic handling of her complaint (between the Office of Rights and Responsibilities and the Human Resources department), Felicia has experienced financial hardship and negative psychological effects of harassment that led to complications in her studies.
In addition to individual acts of discrimination and harassment, CRARR also raised in the complaint the University’s failure to protect Felicia from discrimination and harassment and to properly handle her complaint in a timely and effective manner, which leads to further erosion of her right to equality in the workplace.
CRARR is asking for Felicia, damages and systemic remedies including the thorough review of the University’s definition of sexual harassment and, the development and implementation of concrete measures such as mandatory managers’ training aimed at preventing and ending sexual and gender-based harassment at work.
Last Fall, CRARR revealed systemic problems with the university’s anti-harassment policy, including the fact that it has in fact four different definitions of harassment and that these definitions are not consistent with case law, leaving open the possibility of under-protection of harassment victims, and legal action to strike down the policy.
The definition of “discrimination” in the Code of Rights and Responsibilities is also out of sync with current Canadian civil rights law.