B.C. lawyer with 'creepy uncle' routine suspended for sexual harassment | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. lawyer with 'creepy uncle' routine suspended for sexual harassment

Scott Johnston.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK: CBM Lawyers

A B.C. lawyer who did a "creepy uncle" routine at a work party has been suspended for six weeks for sexual harassment.

According to an April 13 Law Society of B.C. decision, Scott Thomas Johnston got drunk at a work party and told a junior lawyer at his firm that they'd make a "really good baby together" while he also mimed "a sexually suggestive act" with another junior staff member.

The decision says the events took place at a work party in June 2020 and over the course of the night, the Langley-based lawyer who is a partner at CBM Lawyers did a "creepy uncle" routine.

"It was a 'thing he does,'" the decision reads. "He felt it was a routine intended to be a parody of an uncle who behaved strangely, but not in a sexually suggestive manner."

At one point in the night, the junior lawyer made jokes she'd eaten too much and had a "food baby."

READ MORE: B.C. lawyer who spoke to media breached publication ban: Law Society

Johnston, 46, then joined in the joke saying that the baby was his.

"(Johnston) held (the junior lawyer) close, by the arm, and touched her stomach with his other hand as part of the joke about the 'food baby,'" the decision reads.

He then said to her that "all jokes aside" he thought they would make a really good baby together, that he would take care of (her) and that she would not have to worry about anything.

"This is an implied request for a sexual relationship," the Law Society ruled.

In another incident with a different junior staffer, Johnston did his "creepy uncle" routine and "brought his head and upper body quite close to her so that they almost touched and in doing so, made (her) feel uncomfortable," the decision says.

Later, while dancing, Johnston tried to touch the second complainant's head. She pushed his hand away and told him not to touch her.

"(Johnston) responded by saying words to the effect of 'It’s not like I made this motion,' while making a downward gesture with his hand, miming a sexually suggestive act involving a head moving towards (his) crotch," the decision reads.

She told him to "buzz off."

A few days after the party Johnston apologized to the junior lawyer.

However, she later resigned and then filed a complaint against him with the Law Society, WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

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Johnston later signed a consent agreement with the Law Society admitting to his conduct.

"We have taken into account all of the circumstances and find that a reasonable person would have known that the conduct of a firm partner making sexual comments and gestures to two junior female employees would be objectively unwelcome behaviour," the Law Society ruled. "Given that power imbalance, (Johnston) should have been aware that he should avoid any conduct that may be objectively viewed as unwelcome conduct with his employees."

The decision says Johnston is an alcoholic and had relapsed on the day of the party. The Law Society said it accepts this relapse as an explanation for his behaviour.

Johnston has been a registered lawyer since 2001 and had a clean record. The decision says the firm took steps by initiating an impartial third-party investigation into the events.

Lawyers for both parties put forward a joint submission asking for a six-week suspension.

The Law Society accepted the six-week suspension and points out that if it wasn't obligated to follow the joint submission it would have looked at a longer suspension.

READ MORE: B.C. lawyer disbarred for keeping GST and PST

Johnston will also have to pay $2,500 in costs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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