Employer’s neglect of harassment complaints proves costly

Ignoring worker’s complaints and firing her after workplace assault leads to more than $190,000 in damages
By Aneesha Lewis
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 08/14/2019
Employer’s neglect
Worker reported harassment and assault, but employer fired her rather than investigate credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

In order to ensure the safety of workplaces, it is an employer’s responsibility to investigate complaints of harassment and, if required, take steps to adequately address the situation. However, employers do not always comply with these requirements. The recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of Bassanese v. German Canadian News Company Limited et al. is a cautionary tale of the financial consequences when an employer ignores complaints of harassment and terminates the employee’s employment rather than addressing the complaints.

The employee, Heidi Bassanese, was 73 years old and had worked for German Canadian News Company (GCNC) in an administrative role for approximately 19 years. For a period of several months in 2018, Bassanese was subjected to ongoing harassment by a co-worker.

On April 17, 2018, Bassanese filed her first complaint with the president of GCNC, stating that she was being constantly harassed by the co-worker, who would yell and scream at her and tell her that she was an idiot and she should be fired. Bassanese requested that GCNC “step in and make sure this never happens again.” GCNC wrote back the same day saying they were short-staffed but it would run the matter by its HR person.