Arbitrator upholds decision to fire Calgary Transit bus driver who allegedly sexually harassed colleague

An arbitrator has upheld the City of Calgary's decision to fire a Calgary Transit bus driver who allegedly sexually harassed his colleague, after the union grieved the man's dismissal.

The bus driver had been employed with Transit for four-and-a-half years at the time of his dismissal, which happened two months after the incident.

Local 583 Amalgamated Transit Union argued the driver was terminated without just cause, saying the interaction was a "friendly, joking exchange" — but James Casey dismissed that grievance and upheld the termination in a ruling issued Dec. 16.

A female co-worker who presents in a friendly and joking manner does not by doing so imply that her bare legs can be stroked as you wish. - James Casey, arbitrator

Casey wrote that the bus driver and his female colleague only knew each other in passing when on July 11, 2018, the bus driver grabbed his colleague's hand and held it as they were walking toward their respective buses to drive their routes.

The female driver "said she felt extremely uncomfortable and had to shake his hand off" but the male driver said they were having a "friendly conversation."

The next day, the female driver was sitting in the driver's seat of her bus, which was parked at the transit depot before she began her route for the day.

She was wearing shorts as part of her uniform.

The other driver approached her window to chat and noticed she was wearing shorts. 

He said "Wow, legs!" and reached into the window and started stroking her bare leg. She tried to cover her leg and joked about not having shaved that day, and he repeated the action. She tried to cover her leg again, and again he rubbed her leg.

A few minutes later, after walking away, he returned to the window and began touching her leg again. He then pointed to her groin and asked twice "are you shaving down there, too?" 

Colleague was shaken, ultimately resigned

The female driver was shaken by the incident — reporting it to her supervisor, then later going on medical leave and ultimately resigning. She had worked with Calgary Transit for eight years.

Casey said video footage confirms the female driver's testimony of the events.

"A female co-worker who presents in a friendly and joking manner does not by doing so imply that her bare legs can be stroked as you wish," he wrote. "These are coarse, extremely intimate, and sexually charged questions … all the elements of sexual harassment are present."

Casey said the male driver minimized his misconduct by not admitting to the entirety of what he did.

"I also have concerns about whether [the male driver] truly has insight into his actions," Casey wrote. 

Not only did the misconduct have a significant negative impact on the female driver, Casey wrote, it was important to consider other employees' wellbeing.

"The interests of all employees in being able to work in a workplace free of sexual harassment needs to be taken into account," he wrote.