B.C. Human Rights Tribunal accepts class-action complaint against B.C. university in relation to sexual harassment

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      In an unusual move, the chair of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, Diana Juricevic, has decided to accept a complaint against an unnamed B.C. university that she previously dismissed.

      An unnamed woman, identified in a February 23 decision as KR, alleged that seven female students and one female professor were sexually harassed by a male student over a period of years.

      KR has not claimed that she herself was harassed but stepped forward in the absence of anyone else filing a complaint.

      On August 30, Juricevic refused to accept KR's complaint but offered her the option of providing more information.

      The complaint was allowed this week after KR supplied various particulars, including the name of the female professor and the names of six female students who were allegedly harassed. 

      Juricevic wrote in her recent ruling that she understands the seventh female student may have been a minor.

      The complaint may only be heard in connection with B.C. Human Rights Code sections dealing with discrimination in "accommodation, service and facility" and "employment", according to the decision.

      No names have been released.

      "KR alleges that the male student was using an alleged disability as a ruse to sexually harass female employees and students at the University," Juricevic stated. "She alleges that the University should not have accommodated the male student, because his asserted condition does not amount to a disability under the Code.

      "She alleges that the University failed in its duty to inquire a bout the male student's condition," the chair continued in her ruling. "She alleges that, even if the male student had a disability that required accommodation, the University's duty to accommodate reached the point of undue hardship when the male student sexually harassed female employees and students at the University."

      None of the allegations have been proven at the tribunal.

      However, Juricevic stated that there were "sufficient particulars to identify common issues of fact and law", which warranted accepting this as a class complaint for actions that occurred from 2015 to 2017.

      But the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal chair did not allow KR to be the representative of the class, declaring instead that the unnamed professor must fulfill this role.

      "The Professor has one month from the date of this decision to confirm her participation as the class representative and to file an amendment to the complaint," Juricevic wrote. "If the Tribunal receives no correspondence from the Professor by this deadline, the file will be closed."

      KR noted in one submission: "Some of the women I spoke to felt embarrassed by the sexual harassment, one woman expressed fear of losing her job, and most felt not supported by [the University], given the continued presence of the [male student] at [the University] and fear of further attempts to sexually harass them."

      KR also stated that the termination of her employment at the university might have "had a chilling effect" on female university employees who've allegedly been harassed by the male student.