Employee awarded $4,000 following backroom groping at Saskatchewan store

Shier v. Edworthy, 2003 CarswellSask 587 (Sask. Human Rights Trib.)

Joni Lynn Shier was 22, working as an assistant manager at A Buck or Two in Prince Albert, Sask. from November 1999 to November 2000. On Sept. 26, her boss, Ray Edworthy, called her into his office, grabbed her by the waist and sat her down on his knee. When she stood up, he grabbed her face and tried to kiss her. Shier went to the front of the store and told her colleague, Christy Sproxton, what had happened.

Edworthy made comments to Shier for the rest of the day, including telling her that instead of working she “had the option to play.” In the afternoon, Edworthy asked her if she would like to take the rest of the day off, a comment Shier interpreted as another request for sex.

About a month later, after a dispute with another manager, Shier quit her job saying she could no longer handle the stress. Another worker in the store, Angela Backstrom, testified that Edworthy had tried to kiss her, in July 1999. She said she warned her staff to watch out for Edworthy.

Edworthy’s wife, Vivien, testified she was “floored” by Backstrom’s testimony, since she thought they were good friends. She said Shier called the store in November to find out where her paycheque was. Shier said if she didn’t get her cheque she was going to file sexual harassment charges.

Edworthy denied Shier’s and Backstrom’s allegations. He said Backstrom had once come in on her day off and told him she had split up with her boyfriend. He said Backstrom put her arm around his shoulder and her cheek up against his. He said he interpreted this as an advance.

The court accepted Shier’s version of events, calling her a “credible and forthright witness.” It found Shirwill Enterprises Ltd. (the owner of A Buck or Two) liable for the actions of Ray Edworthy.

In determining Shier’s award, the court looked at: the nature of the harassment (verbal as well as physical); the degree of aggressiveness; the ongoing nature and frequency of the harassment; the age and vulnerability of the victim; and the harassment’s psychological impact on the victim.

The court awarded Shier $4,071.43, including $2,000 in compensation, plus the equivalent of nine pay periods for lost wages minus what she earned at an interim job.

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