Calgary city worker gets $800,000 after multiple sexual assaults by superior

Assaults continued after employee complained; employee had to take medical leave and contemplated suicide
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 01/29/2014

The city of Calgary must pay more than $800,000 to an employee who was sexually assaulted multiple times at work — including after the worker had already complained of the assaults — to the point where the employee could no longer work and contemplated suicide.

The city worker, who could not be identified, worked in the roads department for the City of Calgary. In November and December 2010, she was fondled by city senior foreman Terry Mutton several times. The worker reported the sexual assaults to Mutton’s manager, but the manager didn’t immediately address the issue. Instead, the manager went on vacation for a week and put Mutton in charge.

During the week Mutton was in charge, he continued to sexually assault the worker.

Frustrated at the lack of progress with her complaint, the worker brought a camera to work and hid it in her workstation. The camera recorded Mutton fondling the worker.

The worker and her husband met with the city’s manager of road maintenance and showed him the photos. The manager felt the photos were “inconclusive” but reported the situation to the city’s corporate security department, which launched an investigation. Mutton was ultimately suspended.

After Mutton returned to work, the worker found her computer keyboard was covered in a substance she thought might be rat poison and what the manager suggested was mouse droppings. Over the next few months, the worker felt she was being blamed for the situation and in August 2011 she had to take medical leave.

After going on medical leave, the worker was hospitalized twice for contemplating suicide. A psychological report stated that the worker would require “extensive treatment” for a few years in order to get her functioning at close to normal.

The worker also reported the sexual assaults to the police. Mutton was charged and pleaded guilty to the assaults in December 2011. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail to be served intermittently and two years probation.

An arbitrator found the egregiousness of the sexual assaults and the city’s failure to deal with them was a serious breach of its duty to provide its employees with a safe environment free of harassment. The city was ordered to pay $125,000 in general damages, $135,630 for loss of past income, $512,149 for loss of future income, $68,243 in lost pension and $28,000 to pay for counseling and rehabilitation services. After deductions, the total damages for which the city was on the hook was $805,000.

The city indicated in press releases that it was ensuring staff was receiving sexual harassment training and was reviewing its processes to avoid similar circumstances happening again.

“Unfortunately, mistakes were made in this case and the city fell short of its obligations to this employee,” the city said in the release.

The worker’s family and union indicated the financial settlement wasn’t the end of it, as the worker was still dealing with stress and it was important to avoid a repeat of such a failure in application of the city's harassment policies.

“This woman went through a lot,” Peter Marsden, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 38, told the Calgary Herald. “And so did her family. It’s not just what the individual goes through, but what her whole family had to deal with as well.”

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