Settlement agreement doesn’t quash sexual harassment complaint

Power imbalance, lack of advice, small settlement amount offered all factors in making agreement unfair to harassed worker
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 01/17/2018

A British Columbia woman who signed a settlement agreement stating she would drop a human rights complaint for sexual harassment by her employer in exchange for $800 will be able to continue with the complaint, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

The 24-year-old female worker joined the employer in May 2017 in a position cleaning recreational vehicles (RVs). The employer shared a parking lot with another business that also had jobs for the worker — owned by a man referred to as Mr. S. — so she accepted work from the owners of both businesses on an on-call basis.

A few weeks into the job, on June 3, the worker was alone in the RV lot with the owner of her main employer — who was a 62-year-old man — when the owner asked about her tan and jokingly asked if there were any condoms in the cars she was cleaning. A short time later, the worker was inside an RV cleaning it when the owner entered the vehicle and said she needed a massage. The worker laughed it off, but she later testified the owner reiterated that she needed a massage and told her to lie down on the bed. The worker replied that she needed to finish her work and get home to her son — the worker was a single mother with a young son, and this was her first job since her child was born.