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Facts[]

hJanzen and Govereau both worked as waitresses at Pharos Restaurant. They were both sexually harassed by the cook, Tommy Grammas. They made it known that they thought the advances were harassing, however the harassment continued and the owners/managers made life generally hard for them at the workplace. They claim that this is discrimination on the grounds of sex and sued under the Manitoba Human Rights Act (now the Human Rights Code). The appellants were successful at the lower court, but that decision was overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Issue[]

  1. Is sexual harassment sex discrimination?

Decision[]

The courts appeal was held and was allowed. The Court of Appeal stated that harassment is not sex discrimination because the harassment of the individuals was because the two were sexually appealing, not because they were females. The court stated that sexual harassment is "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment".

Reasons[]

The Court of Appeal stated that harassment is not sex discrimination because the women who were harassed were not harassed because they are women, but because they are sexually attractive. Thus, because it is not the fact that they are women that is leading to the harassment, it is not discrimination based on sex.

The Supreme Court rejects this finding. Dickson CJ says that sexual harassment is not about attractiveness – it is about power and its abuse. This makes the connection to gender clear – the accused used his or her power in a discriminatory way by making gender relevant when it should not be. The Court of Appeal stated that the reason why sexual harassment is not in the Manitoba Act (when it is on other legislation) is because the government didn’t want it there. Dickson rejects this as well, and states that you must make a purposive interpretation of the Act as a whole. Its purpose is to give out benefits, so it should be read broadly in order to accomplish this. The court held that sexual harassment is "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment".

Ratio[]

  • Sexual harassment is sex discrimination.
  • Discrimination can occur against a particular subgroup – it doesn’t have to apply to all members of the group.
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