Owner’s Communication with Condominium’s Staff was Antisocial, Degrading and Harassing

A recent Court decision highlights a situation in which an owner’s communications were considered by the Court to be sufficiently harassing to require a cease and desist order and a compliance order.

The Court found the communication, which included addressing staff by degrading names, to be ‘antisocial, degrading and harassing’.

The owner emailed the management office ‘virtually every day’ with various complaints. In this case, the Court’s concern was not the volume of communication, it was the nature of the emails and the language used. The Court commented that the employees:

come to their place of employment day after day and find correspondence in their inbox that engages in insult, body shaming, name calling, and other types of coarse language and rudeness.’

The Court looked to various authorities, including: Section 117 of the Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”); the workplace harassment provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”); and, the condominium corporation’s rules regarding offensive conduct on the property. Based on the foregoing, the Court determined that the condominium corporation was correct to take steps to attempt to require the owner to communicate in a civil, non-harassing manner, and that a legal remedy was appropriate.

The owner was ordered by the Court to:

  • cease and desist from uncivil or illegal conduct that violates the Act or rules of the condominium corporation;
  • refrain from verbally or in writing abusing, harassing, threatening, or intimidating any employee or representative of the condominium corporation;
  • comply with Section 117 of the Act by ceasing to conduct herself in a way that is likely to cause injury to an employee or representative of the condominium corporation; and,
  • pay $15,000 in legal costs to the condominium corporation for the Application. It is worthwhile to note, that in relying on the Court’s discretion for awarding costs, the Court did not award the condominium corporation its full costs, despite there being no apparent wrongdoing on the part of the condominium corporation. This is consistent with similar recent compliance order cases, in which the Court has only awarded condominium corporations’ a portion of their costs.

Harassment is not limited to insulting communications of the sort described in this case. Harassment is defined in the OHSA as follows:

 (a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b) workplace sexual harassment;

“workplace sexual harassment” means,

(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.

In summary:

  • Harassment is a violation of Section 117 of the Act;
  • In addition to  having a Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy under the OHSA, we recommend that condominium corporations pass a rule prohibiting violence and harassment – to provide even more detailed and clear protection for workers at the condominium corporation. A rule can also assist in specifying conduct that is considered harassment;
  • this case provides guidance for condominiums dealing with a harassing owner:
    • Try to do your best to communicate reasonably with the owner; and certainly never respond in kind.  In general, don’t just ignore or delete the owner’s correspondence (in case it contains something of genuine importance;
    • At the same time, harassment (including harsh, unreasonable, hurtful communication) is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

Stay tuned to Condo Law News for more blogs about caselaw updates related to condominiums.