Case In Point
Court Rules Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Manager Outside Scope of Release with Employer
Date: March 14, 2018
In Watson v The Governing Council of the Salvation Army, the plaintiff sued her former manager (Manager) for sexual harassment after having already settled the termination of her employment with her former employer, the Salvation Army. In her statement of claim, she sought a damage award for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional harm and breach of fiduciary duty.
By way of background, in 2011, the plaintiff and the Salvation Army signed a Memorandum of Settlement which contained the following clause:
…The Employer and Employee having regard to their respective rights, duties and obligations, have determined that they wish to resolve any and all claims, complaints, actions, disputes etc. between them arising out of the employment relationship or the termination of that employment;… (emphasis added)
Moreover, the Full and Final Release (Release) stated:
…This release of claims shall include any claims against anyone or any organization in any way associated with The Salvation Army which arise out of or which are in any way related to or connected with my employment or the ending of my employment. (emphasis added)
In 2015, the Salvation Army received a written sexual harassment complaint from another individual pertaining to the conduct of the Manager. As a result of the ensuing investigation, the Manager was terminated for cause.
The Manager sought summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim on the basis of the Release, among other things. Justice Gordon stated that the terms of the Release were unambiguous, and as such, the words “arise out of my employment” defined its scope. He concluded that the Release could not be considered all inclusive. While many of the alleged events occurred at the place of employment (or because of the employment), the sexual harassment and intimidation were not connected to the employment itself.
The settlement was limited to severance only and specific language would have been needed to bar the plaintiff’s claim. The Court concluded that there were genuine issues requiring a trial and dismissed the Manager’s summary judgment motion.