Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sask & Manitoba – Statutory Caps

The principles of the awards are similar to those in Ontario.

Saskatchewan

As difficult as it may be to believe, the legislators of Saskatchewan have placed a limit on the sum which may be awarded for compensatory damages for a sexual harassment case, in fact any human rights violation, as $20,0001. This includes any award for punitive damages. A person subjected to the most brutal forms of sexual abuse in a workplace environment will see such a maximum recovery2.

At one time, the legislated cap was $10,0003. It is not surprising that the awards are modest. In the era of the $10,000 maximum, a 19 year old complainant, subjected to verbal and physical harassment, suffering from lost sleep, which affected her academic pursuits resulting in the postponement of her exams recovered $6,0004.

A 19 year old woman, 5economically vulnerable, subjected to persistent physical and verbal harassment, suffering from severe injury to self-esteem and hurt feelings was awarded $2,400, “given the aggressive harassment”.

A woman suffering from a “serious physiological impairment” who reported “reported sleep disturbances, shaking, crying and nightmares” was given compensation of $2,5006.

A complainant who was the subject of one aggressive act of a physical nature, at age 21 or 22, highly physically and economically vulnerable, and subjected to verbal abuse on the same day, showing impact on her self-esteem, without “significant physiological impact” was awarded $2,000 7.

Manitoba

An award of $15,000 for general damages and $5,000 for punitive damages 8 was made in favour of a woman who was subject to physical contact by the owner of the business which caused severe emotional harm, including “anxiety, depression, flashbacks and panic attacks which continued for several years.”

The panel noted the Ontario law which suggested a range of $12,000 to $50,000 and stated that awards in other provinces have been higher than that of Manitoba. Nothing was done to correct that. The facts in this case were said to support an award in the high end of the range9.

Prior awards reflected the panel`s comments. They had indeed been low. The highest previous award was $7,75010 based on abusive comments and conduct towards a young woman by a customer which the company tolerated.

The sum of $5,250 had been awarded due to inappropriate sexual jokes and verbal solicitations11.

This pattern was dramatically revised. A 2016 decision granted $20,000 to each of three complainants due to a series of long and vile sexual harassments. 12.

More significantly the Manitoba Human Rights Adjudication Panel signaled a new era in 2019 by awarding the sum of $75,000 to a man who complained of adverse treatment due to his gender preference. 13 A lower award, the panel reasoned, would amount to a "licence fee to discriminate". 14

Likely in response to the award in T.M., Manitoba subsequently passed legislation allowing a maximum recovery of $25,000 for compensatory damages.