Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Waitress struck a blow for respect

Employer accountable for sexual harassment

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A quarter of a century after a sexually harassed Winnipeg waitress won a landmark decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, Dianna Janzen Evangeline is still fighting for respect in the workplace.

In 1982, she was a university student who got a job at Pharos restaurant downtown.

"I thought I could succeed at anything I put my mind to," she told 80 equity officers from colleges and universities across the country gathered Wednesday for a meeting of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education.

"The job at Pharos started really well until Tommy the cook sidled up to me and put his hand on my buttocks," she recalled. "I was speechless."

Today, Evangeline volunteers with education programs for young people like No Means No and Youth in the Workplace and is on the board of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund.

When she was waitressing in 1982, most workplaces didn't have harassment policies and human rights weren't as clearly spelled out or known.

'I stopped wearing makeup and went to work without brushing my teeth a couple of times thinking it would help... ' -- Dianna Janzen Evangeline

"I didn't have anyone I could talk with," she said.

The sexual harassment happened again and again even though she told Tommy the cook she didn't like it and to stop.

"I stopped wearing makeup and went to work without brushing my teeth a couple of times thinking it would help... I was focusing on surviving my next shift," she said.

"I went to Phillip my boss to tell him what Tommy was doing, thinking he didn't know what was going on."

"Phillip the owner didn't seem interested in talking with me. He said, 'There's nothing I can do.' "

After that, the groping stopped but the harassment continued. Tommy the cook sabotaged her orders, overcooking steaks and making sure the food for her tables was prepared last. When she complained to the owner again, he made a profane and vulgar remark and she left Pharos for good. She went back to work for her former employer who encouraged her to file a human rights complaint.

"The Viscount Gort owners said 'Go for the throat -- these guys are bad for the industry.' "

The case took six years to resolve. Human rights adjudicator Yude Henteleff ruled that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination based on sex and violated the Manitoba Human Rights Code, and that bosses who know about it and do nothing are vicariously responsible. The Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned his decision. Manitoba Human Rights Commission lawyer Aaron Berg took the case to the Supreme Court and in 1989 won.

In the end, Evangeline was awarded $480 in lost wages and $3,500 for having her human rights violated, but by then Pharos was history, Berg recalled.

"The respondent had gone out of business."

Evangeline didn't get any of the money.

"She never saw a penny of it," said Berg.

The public, however, has been enriched by the case that led to regulations making workplaces more respectful, he said.

The case known as Janzen vs. Platy Enterprises Ltd. has left its mark on the legal landscape, said Henteleff, the adjudicator who first heard the case and whose decision was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

"Since 1989, the Janzen case has been named in more than 500 subsequent cases," said Henteleff.

He and Berg joined Evangeline for a panel discussion at the meeting of equity and human rights officers Wednesday.

Laws exist but they're nothing without education and enforcement, he said.

Evangeline said that's why she's involved with educational programs for young people. She told the story of a young man she knows whose supervisor threw a shovel at him this winter for piling snow in the wrong place. The worker's response?

"It's OK -- he missed."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2014 A8

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