Employee awarded $47,000 for sexual assault

Harassment began soon after employment, final incident 'egregious and aggressive': Tribunal

The owner of an Abbotsford, B.C., construction company, who sexually harassed and assaulted a former employee, must pay his victim $47,000, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has ordered.

Marpaul Consturction hired Tammy Ratzlaff as a heavy equipment operator in September 2007. Ratzlaff was the only woman on Marpaul’s heavy equipment crew. Other women worked in the office but not on the job sites.

Ratzlaff testified she saw Albert Rondeau, the owner of the company, as a mentor. She said Rondeau told her that he would teach her the various aspects of the job.

On October 13, 2007, Ratzlaff said Rondeau told her she was beautiful and that he was lonely. He told her how she made him feel and that he "knew what she could do for him."

Another time, Rondeau grabbed Ratzlaff's buttocks and tried to hug her. She testified that Rondeau said “he’d love to screw her until she could not walk” and that he enjoyed sex with younger women.

Ratzlaff presented tape recording of two other interactions with Rondeau. The recordings showed Rondeau interspersed casual conversation with sexual innuendo, found the tribunal.

While on a job in Kamloops, B.C., away from her home in Chilliwack, B.C, Ratzlaff stayed in a motel with her colleagues. Ratzlaff testified that on November 25, 2007, Rondeau forced his way into her motel room. He grabbed her throat and kissed her aggressively, forcing his tongue into her mouth. She said she kneed him in the thigh but he continued to grab her.

After the incident, Ratzlaff quit her job. She said she was devastated, scared and traumatized and unable to work for four months.

The harassment, both physical and verbal, began almost as soon as Ratzlaff's employment and permeated virtually all of her interactions with Rondeau, found the tribunal. The final incident was "most egregious and aggressive," wrote Heather MacNaughton, tribunal chair.

The tribunal awarded her $25,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. It also awarded her $22,000 in lost wages.

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