This case concerned whether sexual harassment was sex discrimination.  

LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Facts 

Dianna Janzen and Tracy Govereau worked at a restaurant operated by Platy Enterprises. While working there, both were sexually harassed and verbally abused by another restaurant employee.  

Ms. Janzen and Ms. Govereau filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. The adjudicator found that the two women had been subject to sex discrimination because of the persistent and abusive sexual harassment they had faced, and awarded them damages. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench adjusted the amount of damages awarded, but otherwise upheld the decision. The Manitoba Court of Appeal, however, held that the sexual harassment the women had faced was not sex discrimination and that an employer could not be held liable for sexual harassment carried out by an employee. 

LEAF’s arguments 

LEAF argued that sexual harassment was sex discrimination, and contributed to the inequality of women. Not all women needed to be victims of sexual harassment for it to be a form of sex discrimination, as all women could potentially experience sexual harassment because of their membership in a group seen as sexual objects.  

LEAF also argued that courts should continue to adopt a purposive approach to human rights legislation, which was designed to protect disadvantaged groups including women. The court needed to recognize that sex was not limited to biological differences, but also incorporated social aspects including women’s economic inequality, and their experience of being sexually subordinated. 

LEAF also argued that employers were liable for sexual harassment perpetrated against their employees by supervisory employees.  

Outcome 

The Court held that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination. The sexual harassment experienced by the two women affected their working conditions and employment opportunities based on gender. Discrimination did not require that everyone in a group experienced the same treatment. Platy Enterprises Ltd. Was liable for the actions of its employee, as the employee’s actions were work-related and the company failed to ensure that the employee did not abuse the managerial power he had over other employees. 

LEAF is grateful to Lynn Smith and Kathryn Thomson, counsel in this case. 

Download LEAF’s factum here

Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here

Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].