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Demeaning treatment

May 26, 2004
by Kirtaner

Question: My manager always belittles me and my work to my co-workers when I am not around. Is there anything I can do about this?

Answer: The courts have found it is an implied term of all employment contracts that the employer will treat the employee with civility, decency, respect and dignity. In other words, employees are entitled to be treated reasonably by employers. Employers may also be held liable if they allow managers and supervisors to treat employees disrespectfully. This means that they have an obligation to try to prevent workplace bullying.

Your manager, while not disrespecting you to your face, is clearly undermining your dignity behind your back. This kind of bullying can make going to work an unpleasant and stressful experience. But it may be difficult to speak up for fear of rocking the boat.

A first step is to talk to your manager about his behaviour. Indicate you are aware of his comments about you, and that you feel they are inappropriate. This conversation may be sufficient warning for him, and may result in him changing his behaviour. You can also try writing him a letter explaining your position.

If the behaviour does not change, it may be necessary to make a complaint to the human resources department or your manager’s superior. Before you take this step, it is a good idea to keep a record of any inappropriate remarks you have become aware of to back up your complaint.

If your complaint still has no effect, you can consider starting a civil law suit. A human rights complaint is another option, but it is only available where the disrespectful remarks constitute discrimination under the law (such as sexual or racial harassment.) Before you take either of these steps, however, think about the impact it could have on your employment. It may not be possible to continue working at the same place after taking legal action against your employer.

Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or pi@israelfoulon.com. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today

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Legal Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, which in all circumstances must be tailored to the specific facts of any problem. You should obtain a proper legal consultation in order to determine how this article applies to your specific situation. Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP to learn more at 416-640-1550.