Employment Law

Jake Virtanen on leave following misconduct allegations

Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen will likely not be in the line-up for the team’s final games of the season this year, amid allegations of sexual misconduct that has given rise to an independent investigation.

The Instagram post that detailed the alleged misconduct stated that a player, who we now know is an apparent reference to Virtanen, forcibly had intercourse with a woman in 2017.

The Canucks have immediately distanced themselves from the allegations.

Our organization does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind, and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously by us.
— From Vancouver Canucks' Official Statement

Ultimately, how the Canucks govern and/or participate in the investigation, and the consequences of same for Virtanen, will likely be governed by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA (the NHL Player Association).

However, every employer in British Columbia – including the NHL and the Canucks – is subject to occupational health and safety legislation, which in our province, is implemented and enforced by WorkSafeBC.

Companies are legally required to proactively address harassment — including sexual misconduct — in the workplace by making statements like the ones that the Canucks made in writing and in advance.

Every employee is entitled to know that their employer does not tolerate harassment in the workplace, the parameters of a complaint investigation process, and – above all else – that complaints will be taken seriously, without fear of reprisal for complaints made in good faith.

Of course, employers are not absolved for simply talking the talk, but must also walk the walk.

If you, as an employee, have made an allegation of sexual harassment in the workplace and you do not feel that it is being taken seriously, you not only have recourse through WorkSafeBC but you may have civil remedies as well.

Every employer in British Columbia has the obligation to conduct itself in good faith in the context of the employment relationship and this means, among other things, taking complaints of harassment in the workplace seriously.

This means that your employer should investigate the complaint, interview witnesses and mete out consequences, where appropriate.

Regardless of how your employer responds, the one thing that it is absolutely prohibited from doing is punishing those that advance a bona fide complaint of harassment in the workplace.

If you believe that you have been harassed and you make a complaint in this regard, your employer cannot fire you, demote you, leave you out of meetings, or otherwise drive you to regret making the complaint in the first place.

Actions like these – known as reprisal actions – are taken very seriously by our courts and relevant administrative bodies.

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