UnderCover Waitress: Canada and Sexual Harassment Laws

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Canada and Sexual Harassment Laws

Three cheers for Diana Evangeline!

The former Winnipeg waitress will be one member of a panel at a national human rights conference hosted by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, according to CBC News Manitoba.  Evangeline was instrumental in a landmark human rights ruling in 1989.

She was 21 years old when she worked as a waitress at Pharo's Restaurant; she and another waitress were subjected to sexual harassment and verbal abuse by a male cook. The harassment included unwanted and inappropriate touching of body parts and sexual advances. The manager did nothing to help them. Evangeline quit after a couple of months, but the other waitress was fired in retaliation.

Fortunately, Evangeline didn't just walk away. She fought back. She filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in 1983. Platy Enterprises, Ltd., owned the restaurant and was the target of her complaint.

The initial rulings were in the two waitress' favor, but the Court of Appeals overturned the victory. The Court of Appeals argued that the larger employer could not be held responsible for the behavior of employees.

That took my breath away. When employers are not held responsible for the behavior of their employees, you have a free-for-all on your hands and the bullies win. It is not right to subject people to the harassment of other employees. An employer had better set the precedent for how we behave at work, take responsibility, and enforce consequences. This ruling becomes even more surprising when you take into account that the manager of Pharo's was also the president of Platy Industries, Ltd. He can't even claim to have been in an office miles away and unaware of the shenanigans. And yet, he still bears no responsibility?

Additionally, I think a safe and happy workforce equals a more stable and productive workforce. This translates into a successful business, but then, what do I know? I'm just a stupid waitress. ;-)

In 1989, almost ten years after Evangeline's ordeal began, the Supreme Court showed the good sense to overturn the Court of Appeals' ruling. The top court's ruling states, in part:

"By requiring an employee, male or female, to contend with unwelcome sexual actions or explicit sexual demands, sexual harassment in the workplace attacks the dignity and self-respect of the victim both as an employee and as a human being..."

As a result, as of as recently as 1989 sexual harassment is considered a form discrimination in Canada. The Supreme Court ruling is available online. At the time, Evangeline was known as Diana Janzen.

Change is hard. Evangeline was blamed for her woes by those closest to her. She was told her problems were her fault because she had to move away from home and be independent. That truly surprised me. Down here in the states, people still blame rape victims for wearing the wrong clothes or being under the influence of recreational substances, but down here we don't seem to be prone to expecting our daughters to live at home unless and until they get married.

Evangeline was also scolded for speaking out against "normal" behavior. Not sure if her friends and family thought abusive treatment of women was simply normal everywhere, or whether they were referring to male behavior in the restaurant industry. Either way, it is wholly disgusting and unfair to label any form of abuse as "normal." It is also sad that women would see the world this way. No wonder they were upset with her for leaving home. If I considered abuse at the hands of male co-workers "normal," I imagine I would prevent my daughter from going out in the world and gaining life experiences that, ideally, should help her grow in wisdom.

When we consider behavior such as groping a co-worker "normal," we simply enable predators.

Evangeline says that there is still much work to be done, and that the conversation she started twenty three years ago has just begun. I don't doubt it. 


  1. It's a mans world.....however the more we do about that, the more balance our world will have.
    However it is sad these things are common place, sick as well.

    1. When places like Hooters are making money, it is hard to believe there is progress happening. Two steps forward, one step back?

  2. A very big step back, it sometimes seems.

  3. Women are so two faced. They want to show tits and ass but then when a guy looks at them it is just awful... screw you.

    1. lol -- troll. But thanks for displaying a great example of the problem -- men like you.


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