Home » Harassment at work recognized as an employment injury

Harassment at work recognized as an employment injury

by archyw

The Tribunal overturned a CNESST decision. (Photo: Pixabay)

An employee of the Tecnic Rive-Sud driving school in Saint-Constant won her case before the Administrative Labor Tribunal after being the victim of denigration, insults and threats from a colleague. Justice agreed that the woman suffered an occupational injury, thus overturning a decision of the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST).

The high point of the litigation dates back to February 27. The situation involving the worker and a colleague culminated in “a threat to her physical integrity”, then a diagnosis of major depression five days later, relates the decision rendered by administrative judge Josée Picard on June 9.

The CNESST, at that time, considered that the evidence was insufficient to conclude that an employment injury was found, which, within the meaning of the law, is “an accumulation of events leading to an unforeseen and sudden event”.

The woman defended before the Court that her situation represents a work accident. The derogatory remarks and a threat to him are, in his eyes, “microtrauma which can correspond to the notion of unforeseen and sudden event”.

The employer declared that he felt that his depression was more related to the difficult work context and also considered that the proof of his allegations was insufficient.

Facts

The plaintiff explained in court that labor relations were difficult due to disputes over the allocation of hours to employees. This was “the backstory during which the relationship between her colleague and her deteriorates,” reads the Tribunal’s document.

The man is said to have “overstepped the mark by making disparaging and insulting comments about him, mainly targeting his weight and appearance.” Ms. Leclair also testified “of a moment when the colleague displayed a mimic of disgust in connection with the appearance of his legs”.

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However, as the comments were said to have been made to other colleagues or students and that they were reported to him, and then that the principal concerned denies them, the Tribunal considers that this part of the evidence is not satisfactory.

The colleague nevertheless admitted “having made a comment that the worker’s car tilts to one side when she is driving. He explains that it is only a joke ”. This single remark was still not sufficient for the Tribunal.

After a complete analysis of the evidence, it is the threat made to the worker which constituted the element to accept her challenge. While she was outside on her lunch break, he approached her and allegedly threatened her.

He was back to work after a few days off suggested by the employer. It was disclosed that a total of four employees filed written complaints with the employer. A collective grievance was filed and the man’s departure was requested.

The worker reported the facts by email to the president of her union, she also went to the police station to file a complaint and contacted the CNESST for a report to be completed. These documents were in particular retained by the Court.

Although the employer tried to argue, among other things by asserting that the terms reported in 2017 and at the hearing are not exactly the same, the administrative judge is of another opinion.

“Taking into account the number of statements and descriptions of the event, the Court considers that the words and the gesture of the colleague have been proven in a preponderant way”, she concluded by accepting the challenge of the plaintiff.

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