MORE than two years after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against A+ Financial Services Ltd. to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, a last-minute psychiatric report caused the adjournment of the hearing for another three months.
Wendy Kilbride, a former employee of A+ Financial, originally filed the complaint in April 2010.
A motion to have the company's president and owner, Wayne McConnell, included on the complaint will be dealt with when the hearing resumes in March.
After a series of delays in scheduling the hearing this fall, including the disengagement of two lawyers who had been representing McConnell and A+Financial, hearing dates were set for five days starting Tuesday.
But on Dec. 6, the MHRC adjudicator assigned to the case, Peter Sim, received correspondence from A+ Financial's corporate lawyer asking for an adjournment for medical reasons.
Included in the correspondence was a medical report noting that McConnell was medically unfit to represent himself at the hearing.
Although the commission had permitted a series of delays while McConnell changed lawyers -- including one delay to allow one of them to pursue a jurisdictional review that ultimately did not proceed -- McConnell had intended on representing himself at the hearing.
Sid Soronow, a lawyer that represented A+ Financial in corporate matters, attended the hearing on Tuesday on McConnell's behalf. He said he had no previous knowledge of McConnell's psychiatric condition.
In his comments after granting the adjournment, Sim advised McConnell against representing himself when the hearing resumes.
Details of the allegations have not yet been disclosed.
Manitoba's Human Rights Code refers to sexual harassment as:
-- A series of objectionable and unwelcome sexual invitations or advances.
-- One single sexual initiate or advance by a person in an authority position who should have known it was not welcome by the victim.
-- A reprisal, retaliation or a threat of retaliation for rejecting a sexual solicitation or advance.
Of the 251 complaints formally registered with the MHRC in 2011, only five were referred to adjudication and two of those were settled before the hearing began.
Before a complaint gets to the adjudication stage, a lengthy investigation by the commission staff is undertaken -- lasting an average of 8.2 months -- and a written report is submitted to the eight-person MHRC board.
The board then determines whether the complaint should be dismissed or sent back to mediation. If that mediation fails, then an adjudication hearing is set.
In 2011, the board dismissed 128 of the 251 formal complaints and 67 were resolved through mediation prior to a written report received by the board.