Worst cases of human rights violations in the workplace

This article highlights three examples of human rights violations in the workplace based on their severity and the damages awarded to the plaintiffs
Worst cases of human rights violations in the workplace

Canada’s common law has several examples of human rights violations in the workplace. Some of the notable ones are those whose settlement amounts are higher based on the circumstances of the case.

What is considered a human rights violation in the workplace in Canada?

While there are different workplace human rights laws in Canada – both at the federal and provincial levels – all of them prohibit discrimination.

It is a human rights violation in the workplace if an employee or applicant is discriminated against or treated unfairly.

Some human rights violations in the workplace are based on:

  • Age
  • Race, ethnic origin, and color
  • Conviction for a criminal offence
  • Physical, developmental, mental, and learning disabilities
  • Genetic characteristics
  • Marital status and family status
  • Religion, beliefs, and creed
  • Sex and gender

The forms of human rights violation in the workplace based on the above-mentioned grounds include:

  • Verbal or physical harassment
  • Promotions not based on their skills and abilities
  • Denial of basic benefits and other contract-based benefits (e.g., insurance)
  • Denial of statutory leave (e.g., maternity leave, parental leave)
  • Termination based on reasons other than poor performance

Watch this video about a case of sexual harassment at work, an example of a human rights violation in the workplace:

If you’d like to know more, read our article on human rights in the workplace and what the law says.

What are examples of human rights violations in the workplace in Canada?

Below are some actual examples of human rights violations in the workplace. When filing a case for workplace human rights violations, these cases can be your basis either for its settlement amount or the amount of its award for damages.

Francis v. BC Ministry of Justice (No. 5): total of C$964,197.24

The case of Francis v. BC Ministry of Justice (No. 5), 2021 BCHRT 16 is one of the landmark examples of human rights violations in the workplace. This case, so far, is one of the highest amounts in damages awarded to a discriminated employee.

Levan Francis was a BC Corrections officer working for the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre. In 2012, Francis filed a human rights complaint against his employer for the discrimination he experienced based on race and color.

He alleged that he was subjected to racist remarks, racial slurs, and denigrating stereotypes by his colleagues and supervisors in North Fraser (e.g., that he was “slow and lazy” because of his race).

To make things worse, Francis also alleged that after the filing of his complaint, his employer retaliated by treating him with hostility in the workplace (e.g., being regarded as a “troublemaker”).

These events led to Francis leaving his employment due to the toxic workplace.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal found that North Fraser committed violations under BC’s Human Rights Code, specifically under:

  • Section 13: prohibition on discrimination in employment
  • Section 43: protection against complaining employees

The Tribunal further held that Francis had lost his employment and experienced a deterioration of his mental and physical health due to these experiences.

For these violations of the Code, the Tribunal awarded the following to Francis:

  • C$176,000: damages for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect
  • C$264,060: for past loss of earnings
  • C$431,601: for future loss of earnings
  • C$65,881: for pension loss
  • C$25,515.24: for disbursements
  • C$1,140: for expenses

The City of Calgary v. CUPE, Local 38: C$869,022

Another example of human rights violations in the workplace involving a large amount of settlement is the case of The City of Calgary v CUPE, Local 38, 2013 CanLII 88297.

In 2010, MP, the accuser in this case, worked in the roads department for the City of Calgary along with Terry Mutton. On several occasions, MP was sexual assaulted by Mutton.

When complaints to Mutton’s manager were not addressed, MP was forced to use a hidden camera to capture evidence against Mutton. Only then was Mutton suspended for such acts.

Even after MP’s complaint and after Mutton’s return to work, MP received harassment from her co-workers. One of these incidents was when MP’s office keyboard was covered with rat poison.

These events affected MP’s mental health, which led to thoughts of suicide. Her medical records also showed that she would not be able to work competitively due to her affected functioning caused by these harassments.

MP sought redress from the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Her case was referred to the arbitration panel for resolution.

The Union bolstered MP’s case by alleging that the City violated Alberta’s Human Rights Act, among other laws. Section 7(1) of the Act prohibits the discrimination of any person regarding their employment or any term or condition of employment on various grounds.

In finding for MP, the arbitrator held that the City breached its duty to provide its employees with a safe environment free from any forms of harassment.

With this, the arbitrator awarded the following the amounts:

  • C$125,000: for general damages
  • C$135,630: for loss of past income
  • C$512,149: for loss of future income
  • C$68,243: for lost pension
  • C$28,000: for counseling and rehabilitation services

These amounts were subject to tax and other adjustments as determined by the Union.

NK v. Botuik: C$170,000

In the case of NK v. Botuik, the applicant NK was awarded C$170,000 as compensation for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

Here, even though NK only asked for an award of damages of C$100,000, the Tribunal increased it to C$170,000 due to the gravity of the sexual harassment that NK experienced. The Tribunal also based its decisions on other case law.

NK is a single mother who was hired as a Direct Care Worker at Alan Stewart Homes in Ontario. Problems occurred when NK started experiencing sexual harassment on various occasions from her supervisor, Jeffrey Botuik.

Feeling powerless over her situation, and with the need for the job, NK kept mum about these harassments. This also forced her into a sexual relationship with Botuik.

NK was eventually transferred to another residence within the Alan Stewart Homes system. When she tried to end the relationship with Botuik, he sexually assaulted NK.

When she got the courage to report the sexual harassment to her employer, both she and Botuik were dismissed by Alan Stewart Homes.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario held that Botuik committed numerous violations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, namely:

  • Section 5(1): right to equal treatment and protection against discrimination in the workplace
  • Section 7(2): protection against sexual harassment from an employer
  • Section 7(3): protection against sexual solicitation in relation to employment

For this, NK is deemed deserving of an increased amount of C$170,000 for damages.

To know more about other examples of human rights violations in the workplace, consult with the best workplace human rights lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.