B.C. manager sexually assaulted employee aboard cruise ship and must pay $30K, rules tribunal

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The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the manager of a carpeting company to pay more than $33,000 in damages and lost wages to a former employee after finding that he sexually assaulted the worker while on a cruise ship in South America.

Both men worked for a B.C.-based company that laid carpets on cruise ships, and were living and working aboard a vessel that had docked in Nicaragua in February 2019 when the incident happened.

In a decision released this month, the tribunal found that Brant MacMillan sexually assaulted Christopher Ban during the trip, which amounted to discrimination against his employee on the basis of his sex.

Ban had been sleeping in his bed aboard the ship when he awoke to someone touching him sexually, according to the documents.

“He was initially unsure of whether he was awake or asleep and dreaming,” but in the ensuing moments it “clicked for him what was happening," reads the decision.

“It was Mr. MacMillan, who had let himself into his room, got into bed with him, and woken him up with the touching."

Ban would later learn that his manager had gained key entry with the help of a ship steward who had been convinced the manager needed into his room for a work matter.

Ban told the tribunal he jumped out of bed and said “no,” and resisted the urge to “become violent.” He then washed his hands, grabbed his phone and took two photographs of MacMillan lying in his bed. He then left his room to tell a coworker about had happened, only to return to the room and find MacMillan was still there, according to the decision.

“Mr. Ban said he jumped on top of Mr. MacMillan shouting, asking what he was doing, what he was thinking, before throwing him and his belongings out of the room,” it reads.

Ban then went to security to find out how MacMillan had gotten into his room, and the next day he reported the incident to the owner of the company by phone. According to the ruling, the owner told Ban “I don’t know what to tell you,” but then told him that he didn’t need to report for work during the rest of the trip and that he should stay in his room.

However, MacMillan was allowed to move freely about the ship for the next three days as they sailed back.

“Mr. Ban explained that he found this very uncomfortable as it meant he could not avoid coming into contact with him (MacMillan) during that period. He says he would run into Mr. MacMillan who would give him a smirky look,” reads tribunal member Emily Ohler’s decision.

Following the incident, Ban felt unable to work at the company and struggled with significant mental health issues. He received mental health support through WorkSafe BC, says the decision.

A successful human rights complaint requires that the person who made the complaint – in this case Ban – to prove that they were discriminated against, as is explained in the ruling. If the complainant succeeds, then the respondent – in this case MacMillan – has to justify their behaviour.

MacMillan did not attend the hearing, nor did he have a lawyer attend on his behalf, which the tribunal member addressed.

“Absent any competing narrative from Mr. MacMillan, nothing in the circumstances or documentary evidence before me challenges Mr. Ban’s evidence that the conduct was unwelcome,” she wrote.

MacMillan has been ordered to pay Ban $8,333 in lost wages, and $25,000 plus interest for injury to dignity, feelings and self‐respect.