Gavin MacMillan and Enzo DeJesus Carrasco were sentenced earlier this summer to nine years of jail time after being found guilty of gang sexual assault and administering an over-powering drug with the intent to assist sexual assault.

The two men ran the once famed College Street bar in downtown Toronto. It’s scary to think that a popular Toronto bar was run by these predators.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot described the former bar owner and his manager as seeing women as “disposable instruments” for sexual gratification. The almost decade of jail time is a win for all #metoo victims nationwide.

In June, the Human Rights Tribunal awarded Ravni Kaur $40,000 after finding she was sexually harassed at work. The 26-year-old began working at Eat More Restaurant as a dishwasher and food runner in 2014 and was repeatedly sexually harassed by a co-worker Zahir Abbas.

Kaur testified that Abbas asked her if she lived alone, if she was single or had a boyfriend.

She alleged he made inappropriate comments toward her including asking, “How come you were eating a banana?”

Kaur alleged Abbas watched pornographic video on his phone in front of her and others in the workplace, that he used the woman’s washroom and interfered with it while she used it, that he touched her back at work and that he exposed the upper part of his body outside a designated private area as well as being entirely naked in the workplace.

Kaur alleged her employer knew about but failed to protect her from and, in fact, reprised against her by terminating her employment after she complained of the sexual harassment she was subject to.

The decision outlines Abbas’ egregious conduct and also the restaurant’s complete lack of response and failure to investigate the harassment.

Not only was Kaur sexually harassed, she was subjected to a poisoned work environment and was terminated after making the complaint of harassment.

In both examples above, female victims of sexual harassment took their cases through the criminal court and the Human Rights Tribunal. But the damages both could receive in the civil courts should not be ignored. Victims of sexual harassment should never forget their civil rights to sue for punitive, bad faith, and moral damages when subjected to reprehensible conduct.

In a criminal court, victims don’t tell their story but only act as witnesses in the prosecution of their accuser. They do not shape the narrative, the prosecutor does. At the Human Rights Tribunal, even if harassment is established, you may not receive all of the damages you are entitled to, including wrongful dismissal damages and additional damages due to the bad faith manner of your termination as unfortunately was the case with Kaur.

If you are subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, explore your rights to sue in the civil court and ensure all of your basis are covered.

On to your questions from this week.

Q. I have been working from home since March very effectively with a technology/ring central, that allows my employer to see all our production, lunch breaks, etc, in detail. They have now demanded we send back the laptop and phone Aug. 29 and all go back to the office Sept. 1. I am 55 years old, being treated with clonidine for high blood pressure, and several other conditions that have developed due to self-isolating to avoid contracting COVID-19.

I must use public transportation/buses that have little to no enforcement of social distancing and no wearing of masks, which is beyond concerning.

Despite voicing my concerns for my health to our VP and HR, they have ignored my plea to continue to work from home and are simply saying they desire everybody to be back as mandated. Is this even legally enforceable?

A. If there are underlying health issues that prevent you from returning to the workplace safely, my best advice is get this in writing from your doctor. Most employers are dealing with many employees that are nervous to return to work for many of the same concerns you share (i.e. taking public transportation). The law is clear though that anxiety about returning is not enough to refuse to return or require your employer to allow you to work from home. If you are cleared to remain at home during this period by your doctor, your employer will have to accommodate a medical leave to the point of undue hardship, but it will not be required to allow you to continue to work from home during this time.

Q. I am a mom and lucky enough to be working from home. That said, I have two little ones who are remote learning. During the day it is really tough to attend client calls (especially by video) without a screaming child making an appearance. I don’t want to make trouble at work but I really can’t seem to meet all my work expectations. What should I do?

A. Ask for an accommodation from your workplace. Ask to schedule meetings and calls to specific times where you can be less involved with the child care. If you can only manage fewer hours than full-time, your employer would be required to accommodate that request under the human rights code.

Email me at [email protected] with your COVID-19 related workplace questions and your question may be featured in a future column. Till then, stay safe my friends.

— Sunira Chaudhri is a partner at Levitt LLP, Labour & Employment Lawyers