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Queen's University
 

Bhimji

College fails to protect lecturer from racial harassment by students

Facts

Bhimji was a teacher at Leigh College where she was subjected to racial and sexual harassment by a group of students.  She complained to the administration, who disciplined three of the students. The students were given copies of the student handbook and student charter outlining the college's Equal Opportunities Policy. The harassment did not stop. When one of the students continued to harass the teacher, she complained to an Employment Tribunal. During the hearing, it was demonstrated that the Student handbook and charter explained rapidly the college's Equal Opportunities Policy; and that Administration had not impressed upon the students, in a clear and forceful enough way, that their acts of racial and sexual harassment constituted an offense of gross misconduct. (Bhimji v Wigan & Leigh College (2000) ET 2400202/00)

Issues

  1. Was the College responsible for the actions of its students?
  2. Did the College do enough to stop the racial/sexual harassment?

Rulings

  1. Yes
  2. No

Reasoning of the ET

  1. Colleges have a legal responsibility to provide their staff and students with a harassment-free work and study environment.  They are therefore vicariously responsible for acts of harassment committed by individual students or staff, who would be directly responsible.  
  2. The College did not go far enough in its effort to stop the harassment. Through better educational practice they could have better protected the teacher. This would have meant providing more detail on the Equal Opportunities Policy and reinforcing, through education and discipline, the illegal nature of the student's harassment of the teacher.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000