Calling people 'honey' or 'sweetie' in Lake Country salon could be sexual harassment: HRT | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Calling people 'honey' or 'sweetie' in Lake Country salon could be sexual harassment: HRT

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November 03, 2020 - 7:00 AM

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that a former Lake Country hairstylist can continue with a sex discrimination claim she launched after a co-worker called her "hun, honey, and sweetie."

The hair studio had applied to the Tribunal to dismiss the case arguing the male hairdresser called everyone "hun, honey, and sweetie" and no one else took offence. However, the Tribunal rejected the argument saying it "misses the point."

Former employee Brigette Hollett launched the case against Valentina’s Hair Studio and her former boss Cecilia Burtch, after an unnamed colleague only referred to as M in the court documents, referred to her as "hun," according to the Oct. 30 tribunal decision.

The alleged incident took place in June 2017 on Hollett's first day working at the studio, which appears to have since closed down.

According to the decision, M, looked at Hollett "inappropriately" and called her “hun.” The next day at work M then called Hollett "honey" and "sweetie" which made her feel uncomfortable. Hollett also says M looked at her "buttocks."

Hollett only worked a couple of shifts at the salon and then quit.

According to the decision, the salon submitted statements from co-workers and a client saying M called everyone "honey" and "sweetie" and "no one else ever took offence" and they were not offended by his terminologies.

However, the Tribunal dismissed the statements.

"(The salon's) position rests on the belief that what M did does not constitute sexual harassment because he called everyone the same names and no one else took offence... this misses the point because the focus is on the effect on Ms. Hollett," the decision says. "Hollett does not have to prove M intended to discriminate against her... the focus of human rights law is on discriminatory impact, not discriminatory intent."

Hollett also accuses the salon of failing to deal with the situation.

The situation was then made more complicated following an altercation between M and Hollett's boyfriend, whereby the boyfriend banged on M's car and told him to stay away from his girlfriend.

According to the decision, Hollett told owner Cecilia Burtch she had experienced sexual harassment but her boss didn't try to resolve it and instead told her she should apologize to M because of the altercation.

Burtch argues that after the altercation with Hollett's boyfriend her staff were scared so she asked Hollett to apologize. Burtch also argued she had little time to respond to the allegations as Hollett quit her job soon afterwards.

Again the Tribunal dismissed the argument saying there was ample time to deal with the situation and the altercation does not alleviate the salon's obligation to take the sexual harassment complaint seriously.

Ultimately the Tribunal rejected the salon's argument the case should be dismissed, allowing the case to go to a hearing. The Tribunal suggests both parties should try to avoid a hearing and allow the Tribunal’s mediation services to attempt to resolve the matter by mutual agreement.

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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