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My boss hired a man who assaulted me. Should I disclose this? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

Recently, I was sexually assaulted by a man who has since been hired by my employer. I did not report the assault at the time, and have no intention of taking out “revenge” now. I am more concerned that telling my boss will result in an investigation. No one seems to win when there is an investigation. I do not want to be looked upon as a troublemaker. I am on contract as an HR professional, and know from experience that it is easy to not renew work for those who become an administrative hassle. How do I balance my sanity and safety with my career? Do I have an obligation to disclose? Can I disclose and still maintain control over how my employer reacts?

THE FIRST ANSWER

George Cottrelle

Partner, Keel Cotrelle, Toronto

The sexual assault that occurred, and the fact this individual has been subsequently hired as an employee in your workplace, are horrific circumstances.

As this sexual assault took place outside the workplace, and prior to the individual becoming an employee in your workplace, this assault would not likely be governed by your employer’s workplace policies, or by the applicable workplace health and safety legislation, unless this individual poses a safety risk to any worker. Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace. All jurisdictions in Canada have workplace legislation governing the safety of employees. Ontario recently passed legislation specifically dealing with workplace sexual harassment.

You have no legal obligation to report this sexual assault to your employer unless there is a specific safety risk to other workers, in which case different considerations may apply. If you do report this matter, then your employer will have an obligation to assess and investigate safety risks posed by this individual to workers. You have no control over the manner in which your employer conducts this assessment and investigation. However, it would be unlawful for your employer to decide not to renew your contract of employment, or to otherwise take reprisal actions against you, because you have reported this sexual assault.

If you choose not to report the assault, then you need to be confident that your own mental health and safety will not be compromised. You may want to consider seeking some professional counselling to assist in making this assessment.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather Faire

HR executive, Atlanta

Sexual assault is a crime, and those subject to a crime are victims. Reporting a crime is a right, not revenge, and does not make one a troublemaker.

Research your employer’s related workplace policies and reporting practices. Many companies have harassment-free-workplace, respect-in-the-workplace and reporting-non-retaliation policies to protect their employees.

I would encourage you to report your assault to the police and advise your employer if you feel unsafe in the workplace. You might want to engage a co-worker friend to come with you for support. The police could investigate the crime. Concurrently, your employer could provide some accommodation, or transfer to a different work area, so you feel protected and safe at work.

Disclosing what happened to you may help open the door to healing. It could also potentially prevent future victimization. Regardless of what you do, I would strongly advise you to seek professional counselling as well as the support of a victims’ rights organization, to deal with the trauma and distress associated with the assault.

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