A shopkeeper in a small B.C. community has been ordered to pay nearly $99,000 to a former employee he repeatedly harassed and offered cash for sex.
Wooyoung Joung, who also goes by Aiden or Kai, fired the young woman after she rejected his $2,000 proposition and then snuck onto her property multiple times when she filed a discrimination complaint against him, according to a recent decision from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
The tribunal has protected the identity of the target of his harassment, who is known as Ms. K in the decision.
She started working for Joung at the Deep Creek General Store in Armstrong in the spring of 2017, when she was just 21 years old and he was in his mid-40s, according to the decision.
“Ms. K was seriously and negatively impacted when Mr. Joung made sexualized comments to her, propositioned her for sex, made false allegations about her work performance, poisoned her workplace, fired her, and then trespassed at her home in the middle of the night,” tribunal member Amber Prince wrote last week.
Prince found that Joung had discriminated against Ms. K on the basis of sex and retaliated against her for turning to the tribunal.
The experience caused her stress and anxiety, interfered with her sleep and eating, and made her feel unsafe in her own home, the decision says. When Joung fired Ms. K, “she became ill, to the point of vomiting non‐stop over a 24‐hour period.”
Prince ordered Joung to pay Ms. K $53,916.72 for lost wages and $45,000 in damages for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self‐respect.
Joung, a South Korean national who no longer owns the shop, could not be reached for comment, and neither he nor any representative for the store participated in the hearings at the tribunal.
In a response to Ms. K’s complaints, Joung wrote by way of explanation for his actions that he had “very limited” communication skills in English and is “sometimes confused” by Canadian culture.
Proposition made her ‘sick to her stomach’
Prince’s decision lays out in painful detail what she describes as “an example of the longstanding problem of sexual harassment in Canada,” as well as the crushing effects it had on a young woman just starting her career.
The tribunal corroborated Ms. K’s complaint through testimony from a coworker at the store and her older sister, as well as text messages between everyone involved.
Evidence showed that throughout Ms. K’s short stint at the store, Joung made sexual comments about his young female customers and asked Ms. K directly about her sex life.
He asked to take her out for lunch in August 2017, and though she initially said no, Joung persisted. Ms. K finally gave in, and on the drive back from the restaurant, he offered her $2,000 to have sex with him, according to the decision.
“She described feeling shocked, insulted, disgusted and sick to her stomach,” Prince wrote.
At first, she didn’t know how to respond, but then asked him to drop it and move on, she told the tribunal.
Despite Ms. K’s attempts to put the incident in the past, she testified that Joung repeatedly brought it up at work in the weeks that followed. He then began reducing her hours and falsely accused her of stealing.
Joung fired Ms. K a little more than a month after their lunch together, presenting her with a termination letter that expressed displeasure with her “insincere work behaviour.” Prince said it was clear he made this decision because he no longer felt comfortable working with Ms. K.
Ms. K filed a human rights complaint detailing her sexual harassment a couple of months later.
‘Disturbing’ late night trespassing
Some weeks after that, Ms. K and her sister noticed signs that someone had been trespassing on their rural property — unfamiliar footprints in the snow, a discarded banana peel and a cup filled with cigarette butts with a half-eaten hotdog nearby.
They set up a surveillance camera to catch the person responsible, and at 1 a.m. on March 5, 2018, the camera captured images of someone who appeared to be Joung, according to the decision.
The sisters filed a police report, and though Joung denied he was the person pictured in the images, officers warned him he’d be in trouble if he continued trespassing.
Ms. K and her sister “found this trespass onto their property deeply disturbing, and scary,” the decision says.
She also received harassing calls and texts to her unlisted number — one caller said he’d found her number written on a $20 bill with promises of phone sex. However, Prince wrote that she was unable to conclude that Joung was responsible for the calls.
Overall, Prince said it was clear Joung misused his power over Ms. K, then set out on a campaign of intimidation when she tried to hold him accountable.
Joung has been ordered to stop discriminating on the basis of sex and will have to pay interest on the amount he owes to Ms. K if it’s not paid immediately.