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Manner of Dismissal Matters: A Case of Sexual Harassment

Whitten and Lublin | Feb 21, 2018

The manner of dismissal may lead to significantly more costs in damages in any event, and, in particular as will be discussed here, when intersected with human rights issues. In the event that a human rights claim is successful, damages will be awarded to remedy the wrong that took place, whether or not the violation was intentional. Additionally, employees that are dismissed may also be entitled to further damages if the manner of dismissal is untruthful, misleading or unduly insensitive. In such cases, damages can be costly, such as in the case of Doyle vs. Zochem Inc (OCA) 2017.

In the case, Ms. Doyle was a Plant Supervisor and had been employed since 2002 to July of 2011. During her employment with Zochem, Doyle had to interact heavily with the plant manager, Rogers, who had repeatedly sexually harassed Ms. Doyle during her tenure. This included constant sexual comments made towards Ms. Doyle that were suggestive, degrading and descriptive. Meanwhile, the company was going through restructuring with Ms. Doyle one of the employees to be dismissed.

Ms. Doyle decided to come forward and told the General Manager, Ms. Wrench, of the ongoing sexual harassment over the years involving Rogers in mid-July of 2011. After interviewing Rogers, Ms. Wrench dismissed the allegation without allowing Ms. Doyle to respond. On July 19th, Ms. Wrench let Ms. Doyle know that her services were no longer needed. Ms. Doyle was then brought to see a third-party HR representative to carry out the termination.

The termination process as a whole here is significant. Ms. Wrench’s dealings with the sexual harassment allegations were seen as insensitive and dismissive. Further, days before the termination, Ms. Wrench assured Ms. Doyle that her employment was safe, only to terminated her days later. Ms. Wrench also had employees attempt to ‘dig up dirt’ in order to have a reason to terminated Ms. Doyle, although no cause for the termination was pursued. Ms. Wrench also denied my Doyle short-term disability, due to mental distress from a humiliating event at work shortly before her termination for which Ms. Doyle had medical documentation. In addition, the HR representative hired to terminate Ms. Doyle advised Ms. Doyle that pursuing a sexual harassment claim would be irresponsible, which was also seen as an act of bad faith. Ms. Doyle here was also forced into signing a release stating that she would not pursue any allegations, which effectively was an attempt to deprive Ms. Doyle of her rights. An employee then drove Ms. Doyle’s car around to her as she was about to leave, without Ms. Doyle’s permission.

In conclusion, the dismissal here was found to be overly insensitive which amounted to bad faith. The damages awarded were $25 000 in order to rectify the wrong of the sexual harassment. An additional $60 000 was awarded for the bad faith dismissal to compensate the employee for moral damages suffered, with all the aforementioned factors considered. Overall, the manner of dismissal was completely focused on how to ensure Ms. Doyle was terminated without regard for fairness or good faith dealings. Employers should be aware that manner of dismissal must be done correctly to avoid costly damages and injury to one’s dignity. Ensuring that management and HR personnel are properly trained and qualified will mitigate such risks.