Indirect harassment was just cause for dismissal of Saskatchewan employee

Supervisor’s foul language and inappropriate comments to other employees created hostile working environment for female employees: Court

A Saskatchewan employer had just cause to fire a supervisor for his attitude towards women, even though he didn’t make any comments directly to female employees, the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled.

The employee was an equipment transport co-ordinator for Waschuk Pipeline Construction, a pipeline construction company based in Red Deer, Alta. The position was a supervisory role, overseeing employees at a work camp in Saskatchewan, including three women. The employee frequently used foul language in the office and made derogatory comments about the female employees to other workers.

The employee didn’t use foul language or make comments to the female employees themselves, but Waschuk Pipeline felt his conduct created a poisoned work environment for the women. It placed a high importance on maintaining a healthy workplace culture, so the company fired the employee.

The employee filed a wrongful dismissal suit, but the court found the former employee’s behaviour constituted sexual and personal harassment for the women. Even though the women didn’t face it directly, the employee’s conduct contributed to a hostile environment around them and went beyond any reasonable expectation of foul language on a pipeline, said the court. If Waschuk Pipeline had not acted to end the harassing behaviour, it could have faced a complaint from the female employees.

The court upheld the firing, finding the former employee’s harassing conduct constituted just cause for dismissal.

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