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‘Sexting’ harassment victim gets $30,000

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 in HR Issues, Moneyville | 0 comments

By Sheryl Smolkin

Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca 

A 40 year old delivery driver who was sexually harassed via text messages by her boss after she broke off a consensual sexual relationship was awarded a total of $30,000 by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

Lisa McIntosh filed a complaint against Metro Aluminum Products Ltd. and Zbigniew Augustynowicz. She alleged discrimination in employment from June to September 2008 due to ongoing sexual harassment through over 200 unwanted text messages from Augustynowicz, which ultimately caused her to leave her job.

The respondents did not deny the specific text messages. However, they said McIntosh consented to the messages, sent similar messages in reply and that Augustynowicz ceased texting as soon as she requested him to do so.

When the parties initially started dating, Augustynowicz assured McIntosh he was separated from his wife. But several months later she learned he was lying, so she advised him by text and by telephone she wanted to end the relationship and converse only on work-related matters.

She tried to ignore him and made up a new boyfriend hoping he would move on. Nonetheless, the sexually demeaning and provocative messages continued. For example, he told her he needed a “nooner” and asked if she had any “horny girlfriends” or if he could date her daughter.

Although McIntosh did not complain to her immediate supervisor because she feared retaliation, cell phone records and saved text messages supported her allegations. It was only after approximately three months when she threatened to call the police that the messages stopped.

By the fall of 2008 she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and took a one-week stress leave. Upon her return, the toxic work environment continued to make her mentally and physically ill. As a result, she asked for an additional 8-12 weeks of medical leave, but her supervisor said he had no other alternative than to replace her.

The Tribunal found that in spite of the previous sexual relationship with Augustynowicz which included some texting, McIntosh clearly told her boss both orally and through text messages that it was over.

She was awarded $14,493.80 as compensation for four months of lost wages; $12,500 as damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect; and, $2,900 for a forensic report and lost time off work to attend the hearing.

Both Zbigniew Augustynowicz (the company owner) and Metro Aluminum Products Ltd. (the company) werefound jointly liable for the total damages of approximately $30,000.

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