Worker suffered unfair treatment but not discrimination from supervisor

Bad treatment by supervisor not related to worker's sexual orientation: tribunal
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/15/2014

An Ontario worker was treated poorly by his manager but that treatment was not discriminatory, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Salvatore Sfara was a carpenter employed with the City of Toronto. As the result of several incidents at work, Sfara felt his supervisor was targeting him and singling him out.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Sfara didn’t put on his safety boots because he wasn’t working in a dangerous environment and he didn’t feel the boots were necessary. There were also office workers going through the area without safety equipment. However, when Sfara’s supervisor saw he wasn’t wearing the safety boots, the supervisor yelled at him about proper safety equipment. Sfara felt yelling was unnecessary, particularly in front of other people.

On May 5, 2011, Sfara received an email inviting him to an information session. When he arrived, his supervisor questioned why he was there and said he didn’t want to pay Sfara overtime for the session. The supervisor then accused Sfara of making up his own rules for unauthorized overtime and said he needed to keep Sfara confined because he was never around when people needed him. Sfara felt singled out for discipline.

On Sept. 12, Sfara was scheduled to work at a remote site. He received an urgent call to get to the site, so he skipped stopping at the shop to get his boots. Once there, he began moving materials with a co-worker.

Sfara’s supervisor noticed Sfara wasn’t wearing his boots again and when Sfara told him they were back at the office, the supervisor leaned into him and stepped on his toes. At the end of the day, the supervisor gave Sfara a letter about the need to wear proper safety equipment.

One week later, Sfara was working at another site with an apprentice. While on a break, Sfara went to a nearby store to buy rain pants. His supervisor called him to ask why he wasn’t at the job site and later, back at the shop, insulted Sfara and threatened to fire him.

By October 2011, Sfara felt that coming into work was unpleasant every day. On one occasion, his supervisor touched Sfara’s head and said he was hard on Sfara but he should “come over to the dark side.” Sfara didn’t say anything but didn’t like his supervisor touching him. He was also told he might be laid off.

One day in January 2012, Sfara’s supervisor caught him without safety boots again and stepped on Sfara’s foot. The supervisor then told him he was going to be demoted and other guys wanted his position. Sfara replied that he didn’t know what the supervisor wanted from him and he knew the supervisor hated him. The supervisor responded by telling him to empty out his desk that night.

Sfara filed a human rights complaint, claiming he was a victim of discrimination with respect to employment because of sexual orientation.

The tribunal found the relationship between Sfara and his supervisor was “fraught with tension” and Sfara sincerely believed he was being singled out and unfairly reprimanded. However, there was no evidence presented that suggested Sfara experienced differential treatment that resulted in a disadvantage to him based on his sexual orientation, gender, or any other protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“Although I have no trouble concluding that a pattern of unwanted physical contact, if it happened as described, could constitute harassment and an assault, I cannot agree that the behaviour could be characterized as harassment on the basis of sex in the absence of any link between (Sfara’s) gender and the actions in question,” said the tribunal.

The complaint was dismissed. See

Sfara v. Toronto (City)

, 2014 HRTO 178 (Ont. Human Rights Trib.).

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