The Hanson v Hureau Intersport decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Yukon (“the Court”). As per section 28 of the Yukon Human Rights Act, parties have the right to appeal decisions made by a Yukon Human Rights Board of Adjudication (“the Board”). According to this section, parties are only allowed to make appeals on “questions of law”. In other words, they are only allowed to appeal a Board’s application of the law or its interpretation of the law. Not all issues brought forth by the Respondent and Complainant were “questions of law”. In this case, the Court agreed to consider the following issues:
1) Did the Board make a mistake by relying on its own research to make decisions and by not providing the parties an opportunity to challenge or respond to the research?
2) Did the Board make a mistake by denying damages for injury to the Complainant’s dignity, feelings and self-respect? Related to this, did the Board make a mistake by refusing the Complainant’s additional evidence that was relevant to the issue of damages?
3) Did the Board make a mistake by not finding the Respondent’s company liable for the sexual harassment?
First, in making its decision, the Board relied on existing research to conclude that adults
must assume a larger share of responsibility when dealing with teenagers. The Court stated that the Board should not consider social science evidence that was not provided by either party. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that the Board did not make any error when taking into account the immaturity of brain development of teenagers. This is a generally known and fact – and this is all that the Board drew from its research. Further, this information simply added context to the situation, but did not affect the Board’s decision as a whole.
Second, the Court found that the refusal of additional evidence from the Complainant was an acceptable decision made by the Board. The Complainant had already given evidence at the initial hearing. There was no need to provide additional evidence after the case was already decided.
Third, the Court found that the Board made a mistake in law in reaching its damages award. The Board found that the Complainant was young, vulnerable and in her first employment situation. She also suffered psychological impacts and briefly met with a counsellor. The Court found these were not trivial or insignificant impacts. The Court stated that psychological injuries are just as serious as physical injuries and after often more difficult to remedy and make the subject whole again. The Court also found that the public nature of the court and tribunal system and its obvious stress and impact on the participants cannot be compensated – the award of damages must be confined to the injury from the sexual harassment. As a result, the Court ordered the Respondent to pay the Complainant $5000 for damages for injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.
Finally, the Court found that the Board made a mistake by not finding the Corporate Respondent liable. On a factual basis, Mr. H was the majority owner of the Corporate Respondent so there could not be a lack of notification issue. When the Complainant had advised Mr. H that she was quitting her employment as Mr. H had “crossed the line”, the Corporate Respondent had notice.