May 26, 2015
On April 1 2015, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal granted a Filipino domestic care worker (“Employee”) subjected to sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination $50,000.00 in damages for loss of dignity, feelings and self-respect.
The 28 year old Employee is a mother of two children. To provide for her family, she accepted employment as a nanny with a private family (“Employer”) who at the time resided in Hong Kong, to act as a live-in caregiver for their two children at the family home. After one year of employment in Hong Kong, the Employer moved to British Columbia. The Employer moved into a two bedroom hotel room in Richmond, British Columbia until a permanent residence was purchased.
The Employer arranged for the Employee’s temporary 3 month work permit, and paid her airfare. The agreement stipulated that if the Employee resigned, she would be obligated to repay the visa fee and the plane fare which amounted to approximately $13,600.00. Upon arrival in Canada, the Employer confiscated the Employee’s passport. The Employer took the two bedrooms and forced the Employee to sleep on the couch in the living room with no privacy. Her clothes were kept in the Employer’s bedrooms. Throughout her employment, the Employee was forced to work seven days a week from 5:30 am to 11:30 pm with no breaks. From the time they arrived in Canada she was not permitted to leave the hotel room. She was verbally abused by the Employer and was deducted pay if she sat down during the day or broke any of the Employer’s possessions. She was mistreated by the children with the parent’s approval. The male Employer also forced her to rub his penis with lotion 2-3 times a week and threatened retribution, loss of employment, and harm if she revealed this to anyone.
The Employee was only entitled to eat with the Employer’s permission, and her food at restaurants with the family was apportioned and restricted to the amount dictated by the Employer, which resulted in malnourishment. The evidence at the Tribunal hearing demonstrated that she was not allowed to associate with other Filipino employees at the hotel or given a phone with data capabilities to call her family in the Philippines.
After being in Canada 6 weeks, she resigned walking out without any money, her passport, additional clothes, or her eyeglasses. She ended up staying at a Vancouver safe house for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and subsequently brought this claim with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal..
The Tribunal characterized the Employee as a virtual slave and granted a declaration that the Employee was subject to discrimination based on her sex, family status, age, race, ancestry, and colour contrary to section 13 of the Human Rights Code. The Tribunal awarded lost wages of $ 5,866.99 including overtime, and $50,000 in damages for injury to self-dignity taking into account the repeated acts of sexual misconduct, intimidation, and exploitation. Aside from this case, the largest damage award for loss of dignity granted by this Tribunal is $75,000.00.
Employers must be cognizant to maintain a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment failing which the financial consequences and reputational risks can be significant. Based on financial limitations and other factors in this case, the Employee did not commence a superior court action for wrongful dismissal seeking damages for harassment and punitive damages which damages would likely have greatly exceeded the award made by the Tribunal.
PN v. FR and another (No. 2), 2015 BCHRT 60 (CanLII)