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Toxic work environment focus of human rights commission hearing

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She claims the sexual harassment against her was so severe she felt her safety threatened and has since been forced to change her name.

He claims her allegations are outlandish and she's just after a cash settlement.

That's the heart of a two-day Manitoba Human Rights Commission hearing that started this morning.

Adjudicator Robert Dawson has been asked to determine if a Winnipeg wine- and beer-making supply store was a toxic work environment which didn't protect the woman from abusive and sexual comments made by a customer.

The woman testified this morning the customer made a number of lurid comments which escalated to him talking about raping her and rubbing his crotch against her.

She testified she complained to the store's owner who replied to her that it was a personal matter and should not involve police.

"He always emphasized, 'You are the one who has the problem,'" she told Dawson.

The woman said she was later fired in May 2010 for insubordination after she made it known she was filing a complaint with the human right commission.

The university student also said she had previously been sexually assaulted and that the customer's behaviour and her employer's lack of response only increased her emotional stress.

The store's owner has denied that he failed to respond and that the woman's allegations are unfounded.

"If I was really a mean-spirited person she could have approached my wife who is also involved in the business," he told Dawson in his opening statement.

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