Robichaud began employment with the Department of National Defence a base in North Bay, Ontario, as a cleaner in 1977. She was later promoted to the position of lead hand effective subject to a six-month probationary period. Throughout the period, Brennan was Foreman of the Cleaning Department on the Base and had full responsibility for the cleaning operation. Brennan had the principal input into the employer's decision with respect to the satisfactory completion of Robichaud's probation period. Brennan was supervised by the Base Administrative Officer and ultimately the Base Commanding Officer.
Robichaud alleges that from November 1978 - October 1979, she was sexually harassed, discriminated against and intimidated by Brennan and his employer, invoking s.7(b) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and that when she complained, conditions of work changed adversely. Brennan claims the alleged sexual activity never took place. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the allegations made by Robichaud to be credible but dismissed the action. The Review Tribunal made the same finding of facts and used the precedent of Bell v Flaming Steers Steakhouse which had looked at sexual harassment as adverse treatment based on sex and made a finding of discrimination. The Federal Court of Appeal set aside the decision of the Review Tribunal, and referred the matter back to it on the basis that Robichaud's complaint against the Crown was not sustainable. The latter decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.
- Is the Treasury Board responsible for the discriminatory actions of Brennan?
Appeal allowed, decision of the Review Tribunal restored.
The court held that the statute contemplates the imposition of liability on employers for all acts of their employees "in the course of employment". This purposive analysis of the intention of the Canadian Human Rights Act shows a clear statutory basis for employer liability.
- Employers are vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts of their employees.
- The purpose of the Canadian Human Rights Act is not to to punish the discriminator, but rather to provide relief for the victims of discrimination.